Developing a mouse model of visual hemineglect by means of spot-wise, cortex-wide optogenetics

Website Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience group, SILS, UvA

Background research project
Visual hemineglect, or unilateral spatial neglect, is characterized by the inability to respond or orient towards stimuli presented in the visual hemispace contralateral to a unilateral lesion, most commonly the posterior parietal area. Instead, patients direct their attention towards the ipsilateral side of space. Despite treatment and behavioural recovery, even though patients perform well on simple paper-and-pencil tasks, they may nevertheless show lateralized impairments (e.g., extinction) on more demanding time-constrained tasks or real-life situations.

Neglect and extinction cannot be explained by primary sensory deficits and are often seen the result of an interhemispheric disbalance in attentional-perceptual systems. However, more recently, evidence indicates extinction may also be due to deficits in the decision-making circuitry. To investigate the neural mechanisms underlying spatial neglect this project aims to develop a mouse model, allowing for high spatial and temporal resolution causal manipulations.

The first aim of this project is to find a mouse homologue of visual hemineglect, i.e., a lesion or temporal inhibition leads to similar behavioural symptoms as the human and non-human primate condition. This will first be done by means of laser-scanning optogenetics, which allows for rapid cortex-wide inhibition within animals. Once a target region is found, the neural mechanisms of neglect will be described by means of electrophysiological recordings using laminar silicone probes.

Student’s role in the project
This winter we will start behavioural training on a visual detection task and conduct optogenetic and electrophysiological experiments. We are looking for a highly motivated and ambitious master’s student who will: 1) be in charge of daily behavioural training, 2) assist in optogenetic experiments, 3) assist in surgeries (headbar implantation, clear-skull cap), 4) perform histology to examine opsin expression post-mortem using fluorescent microscopy, 5) analyse data in MATLAB and/or Python. Additionally, the student may assist in electrophysiological recordings and the analysis, and potentially aid in widefield calcium experiments and its analysis.

No prior skills are strictly needed for this internship position; however, the willingness to learn MATLAB and/or Python is a must. Prior experiences in animal experiments is considered a plus.

Duration: 6-9 months
Start date: December/January 2023
Supervisor: Medina Husić (PhD candidate)
Institute: Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, University of Amsterdam
Lab: Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience

If you would like to apply please send your CV, grades and a short motivation to Medina Husić ( Feel free to reach out if you have any questions!

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