[Comp-neuro] Open position for a MSc student :: Modeling the impact of astrocyte-neuron metabolic interactions on neural activity

Renaud Jolivet rjolivet at pharma.uzh.ch
Thu May 22 10:20:06 CEST 2008

Apologies for cross postings.

The group of Prof Bruno Weber (University of Zurich, Institute of 
Pharmacology and Toxicology) is looking for a talented and motivated Masters 
student for a computational neuroscience project aimed at understanding the 
energetic constraints of neuronal activity.

The brain uses glucose as its primary energy substrate. Surprisingly 
however, neurons use lactate – a glucose derivative – rather than glucose 
has their main energy fuel. Lactate is being produced in astrocytes from 
blood-borne glucose and is then shuttled to neurons instantiating a 
metabolic connection between astrocytes and neurons. Since this mechanism 
was originally postulated in 1994, its existence has been the subject of a 
much heated controversy. We have recently demonstrated using mathematical 
analysis that this lactate shuttle does take place in vivo, is of 
significant importance and is regulated by the activity of excitatory 
neurons as originally postulated. This leaves open the question as to why 
brain energetic is organized in this fashion. This question is being 
addressed in the group at the moment using a combination of in vivo 
experiments and modeling. With this project, we wish to open a new line of 
research focusing on the role of this lactate shuttle in the regulation of 
neuronal activity, a mechanism recently described in vitro.

The project will consist of developing, simulating and analyzing a network 
model containing different neuronal and astrocytic subpopulations. Energetic 
constraints and regulatory mechanisms will be integrated in the network by 
progressively increasing the complexity of astrocyte–neuron metabolic 

This project will make use of the newly developed Brian simulation tool 
(http://brian.di.ens.fr/) and will be run in collaboration with Dr Romain 
Brette at Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris who developed Brian.


- Strong theoretical background (mathematics, physics or equivalent).
- Knowledge of the Python programming language, MATLAB an asset.
- Basic knowledge of biology and neuroscience.
- Interested in combining theoretical tools with in vivo experiments to 
address key questions in neuroscience.
- Fluent in English.


Please contact Dr Renaud Jolivet by e-mail at rjolivet at pharma.uzh.ch or by 
phone at +41 44 255 3632. Further information about the group can be found 
at http://www.pharma.uzh.ch/research/functionalimaging.html

Dr Renaud Jolivet
Roche Research Fellow
University of Zurich
Institute of Pharmacology & Toxicology

University Hospital Zürich
Nuclear Medicine
Rämistrasse 100
CH-8091 Zürich

Tel: +41 76 437 9798

rjolivet at pharma.uzh.ch

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