[Comp-neuro] PhD and Postdoc positions on neuronal morphogenesis and network formation

Arjen van Ooyen arjen.van.ooyen at falw.vu.nl
Wed Jun 4 12:02:10 CEST 2008

Applications are invited for PhD and Postdoctoral positions in the 
Neuroinformatics Group of the Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive 
Research (CNCR), VU University Amsterdam. The positions are funded by an 
EU-FP7 grant for the collaborative project “Self-Constructing Computing 
Systems” (SECO) and by the NWO Computational Life Sciences project 
“Neuronal Network Formation through Reciprocal Interactions between 
Activity and Structure” (NETFORM). The aim of our research is to 
investigate the principles by which neurons grow out and assemble 
themselves into functioning circuits.

The first research line focuses on the development of dendritic and 
axonal growth models. We will create computational models of neuronal 
morphogenesis in which cell-type specific axonal and dendritic trees 
develop through neurite elongation and branching as mediated by the 
actions of growth cones and in interaction with the cellular 
environment. A major challenge is to find a balanced level of 
description of neurite outgrowth based on cellular, biophysical 
mechanisms (e.g., cytoskeletal dynamics) that will be suitable for an 
algorithmic implementation. The models will be used to study, for 
example, competitive interactions in neuronal morphogenesis, the impact 
of electrical activity on neuronal morphology, the formation of aberrant 
neuronal morphology in brain diseases, and axonal navigation in the 
development of cortical and thalamic circuitry.

The second research line focuses on the reciprocal interactions between 
neuronal network structure and activity dynamics in developing neural 
circuits. Using computational models, we will explore the impact of 
activity-dependent plasticity rules (modulating neuronal morphology, 
structural connectivity, synaptic strengths, and intrinsic neuronal 
excitability) on the evolution of developing neuronal networks under 
their own (spontaneous) firing activity. One important open question 
that we will address is whether homeostatic, activity-dependent 
processes at the local synapse or neuron level are capable of achieving 
homeostasis of global network activity. We will study whether networks 
will evolve towards self-consistent states, in which firing patterns 
stabilizes the synaptic connectivity structure that also gives rise to 
these firing patterns.

Ideal candidates should combine a strong neurobiological interest and 
knowledge with an excellent background in computational/biophysical 
modeling (research line 1) or computational neuroscience/neuronal 
network modeling (research line 2).

PhD positions are for a period of 4 years, Postdoctoral positions 
between 2 to maximally 4 years.

For further information about these positions, please contact Dr. Arjen 
van Ooyen, arjen.van.ooyen at cncr.vu.nl, or Dr. Jaap van Pelt, 
jaap.van.pelt at cncr.vu.nl. Application letters including a CV, research 
experience, a short statement of research interests, and contact details 
of two referees should be sent by email to Dr. Arjen van Ooyen before 
the 7th July 2008.

Dr. Arjen van Ooyen
Neuroinformatics Group
Department of Experimental Neurophysiology
Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research
VU University Amsterdam
De Boelelaan 1085
1081 HV Amsterdam
The Netherlands

E-mail: arjen.van.ooyen at cncr.vu.nl
Phone:  +31.20.5987090
Fax:    +31.20.5987112
Room:   B-451
Web:    http://www.bio.vu.nl/enf/vanooyen

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