We are seeking for candidates for a PhD fellowship on the topic: Decoding movement goals and muscle activation patterns from neural activity
This project will be co-directed by Bjorg Kilavik (Timone Neuroscience Institute) and Demian Battaglia (Institute for Systems Neuroscience) at Aix-Marseille University, awarded the prestigious status of “Excellence Initiative” (A*MIDEX) by the French Government and considering interdisciplinary studies as one of its main axes of growth.
The cerebral cortex is organized into multiple layers comprising largely distinct distributions of incoming and outgoing anatomical projections. It is not clear however which of these layers is the better target for Brain Machine Interface (BMI) applications aiming at driving screen cursors or robotic prostheses via the decoding of motor plans and commands from motor cortical activity.
In this project, we will start by determining the availability of information about movement goal vs. muscle activation patterns in different motor cortical layers, by doing offline decoding of existing and future higher-quality laminar data recorded in NHPs. In parallel, we will build an online BMI setup for further experiments, coupled with a NHP upper limb exoskeleton already on site. We will first use information theory approaches to systematically compare the amount of information relevant for different applications that can be potentially extracted from different laminar depths (superficial vs. deep) and/or types of signal (spike trains, local field potentials). Based on these offline analyses, we will then design optimized fast-to-compute features suitable for online decoding. These results will allow us to optimise the harvesting of signals and their use for motor BMI applications.
The englobing experimental research program is ongoing, and essential equipment is already in place. When the student arrives, data is already available for analyses, and recordings will immediately start in a newly trained animal. The two supervisors are highly complementary, with renowned expertise in experimental (Kilavik) and computational (Battaglia) approaches, and can therefore provide a solid support for the student to succeed in this highly demanding project.
Candidate profile: Candidates with a background in biology, neuroscience, physics or engineering are particularly encouraged to apply. The work will combine experimental and computational approaches, with adequate supervision from the highly complementary supervisors. This project provides an excellent opportunity to gain solid multidisciplinary training at the forefront of integrative neurosciences.
The scholarships are open to Master graduate students from top ranked non-French universities.
The application must include :
• a detailed curriculum
• a letter of motivation
• two recommandation letters (the referee should use the template “phd evaluation form” )
• the template “choice of research projects” (applicants must select and rank two of the proposed research projects)
Applications should be sent before May 21st, 2017 at midnight (French time).