[Comp-neuro] Fully funded 3 years PhD position at the University of Zurich

Renaud Jolivet rjolivet at pharma.uzh.ch
Wed Oct 22 10:09:00 CEST 2008

Modeling neuron-astrocyte metabolic interactions and their impact on 
neural activity

We are looking for a talented and motivated PhD 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 can also use lactate – a glucose derivative – rather 
than glucose as 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. Our recent work using 
mathematical analysis suggests 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 computational 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 interactions.

Combining modeling with experiments is possible if the candidate wishes 
to do so.

§ Strong theoretical background (mathematics, physics or equivalent).
§ Knowledge of the Python programming language and 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.
§ Further information about the group can be found at 
§ University of Zurich website http://www.uzh.ch/index_en.html
§ Neurosciences in Zurich http://www.neuroscience.ethz.ch/
§ Living in Zurich http://www.zuerich.com/en/welcome.cfm

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