We delighted to have two new people, Mason Silveira and George Jenkins, join the lab. Mason was awarded a 2-year Canadian post-doctoral fellowship while George is just starting a 4-year iCASE DPhil, sponsored by Lundbeck. Both will be working on different aspects of understanding circuits for choosing when to initiate and when to withhold actions.
Our collaborative work with Heiko Backes and Rachel Lippert at the MPI Cologne is out in Nature Communications! We helped validate their model for monitoring dopamine levels with PET at single minute resolution by using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry to monitor fast and slow fluctuations in dopamine following chemogenetic activation. A great collective effort at our end from Clio to get the first data set, Lauren to follow this up when revisions were needed, and Tom JP to re-write the analysis code to look at transient detection and longer timescales of dopamine release.
We’re excited to have put out a preprint demonstrating and validating a new open source Python based hardware and software for fibre photometry. This is the brainchild of Thomas Akam, and follows close on the release of pyControl, a package for implementing rodent behavioural experiments that he was instrumental in establishing in the lab. All the relevant design files and documentation are already online for anyone to use. Both are good and much cheaper than equivalent commercial kit.
A warm welcome to Neb Jovanovic, who is joining the lab as an undergraduate research assistant for 3 months thanks to a British Association of Psychopharmacology In Vivo training award. Neb will be working on a project to understand how genetic regulation of cortical dopamine influences cue learning and more generally, as a biochemist by training, to learn about the joys and black arts of behavioural neurochemistry.
Huge congratulations to Laura for passing her DPhil viva with flying colours (and the obligatory minor corrections)!
We had the pleasure of hosting an "In2Science" student, Zach Morris, for the first time this summer. Zach got to try his hand at everything from threading electrodes and make optic fibres to genotyping and spike sorting. He even got to demonstrate that he was definitely better than a rat on one of the tasks that they are currently performing! We really enjoyed having Zach around and hope to host another student next year.
The first study from Caroline's thesis on how pharmacological manipulations of noradrenaline influence motivation and flexibility during sequential cost-benefit decision making is now out in Psychopharmacology (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29998349)
Congratulations to Caroline for a unanimously commended thesis defence in Paris! And bon chance for the next part of your career in the USA.
Many congratulations to Lauren who has been awarded a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral fellowship starting in August, to work out the mysteries of cholinergic interneurons with Steph Cragg's lab and us.
Many congratulations to Sebastian who has been awarded a prestigious Junior Research Fellowship at Merton College. This provides 3 years of salary for him to pursue whatever research he wants, plus of course 3 years of free lunches and dinners so he will never go hungry.
After nearly nearly 5 years in the lab and many hours spent over an FCV rig in our surgery coaxing dopamine out of frontal cortex (and almost coming round to a perspective that it should be called "frontal" and not "prefrontal" cortex), Clio has returned back to California to take up a post-doctoral position in Vikaas Sohal's group at UCSF. We'll all miss greatly her boundless good cheer, unprecedented organisational skills, and ability to hit the VTA with her eyes closed.
A very warm welcome to two new lab members. Hironori joins us on a Japanese Uehara Foundation scholarship to work on dopamine and decision making over the next year. Nils is doing a 3-month rotation in the lab as part of his MSc Neuroscience course, working with Xudong to continue investigating how rats learn structure and how this is represented neurally.
The Walton Lab was out in force on Saturday as part of the Brain Diaries exhibition at the Natural History Museum in Oxford. Visitors got to play a "Dopamine Dipper" marbles game to learn about prediction errors, and experienced a "Heavy Feet Challenge" as a platform to discuss how dopamine influences motivation, effort and decision making. Most importantly, all attendees were thoroughly disabused of any ideas from the media that dopamine is necessary for pleasure and happiness.
Many congratulations to soon-to-be Dr Clio who successfully defended her D.Phil thesis on the role of different clearance mechanisms on patterns of dopamine release and motivated behaviours!
A very warm welcome to a cornucopia of talented MSc students rotating with the lab for the first 3 months of the year. Iñes is working with Xudong and Cheng to see how rats build models of the world, Sebastian is investigating the pharmacology of self-control in rats with help from Laura, and Veronika is looking at glutamate-dopamine interactions during habituation in mice with Marios and Tom JP.
We are delighted welcome to Emilie Werlen who has joined the lab as a post-doctoral fellow. Emilie recently finished a PhD with Dr Matt Jones at the University of Bristol where she focused on the influence of mesocortical dopamine projections on neural activity patterns in different brain states and cognition. In Oxford, she will be working on analyses of electrochemical data and leading a project to determine the precise temporal relationship between dopamine release and action initiation.
Applications are now live for a highly motivated postdoctoral research associate to take forward a new 5-year Wellcome Trust-funded project to investigate the precise causal role of dopamine release in the regulation of reward-guided action selection. The post is initially a 3-year fixed-term appointment with the possibility of renewal up 5 years, with a start date of 1 November 2016 (or as soon as possible thereafter). Closing date is 7th October, 2016.
The primary role of the researcher will be to take forward and develop a programme of work aimed at unravelling the moment-by-moment role of dopamine release in decisions to act or not to act. To do this, the project will use state-of-the-art techniques to record and/or manipulate sub-second dopamine in rodents performing sophisticated reward-guided decision making tasks. There will also be the potential to use computational modelling to better understand the relationship between real-time dopamine release and animals’ behaviour.
Candidates should have attained, or be nearing completion of a PhD in a relevant discipline and/or have relevant postdoctoral experience. Experience with rodent neurosurgery, in vivo recording and/or optogenetic tools (preferably in behaving rodents) is essential along with excellent organisational and record keeping skills.
Informal enquiries to Mark are encouraged. More details and formal applications can be found here and on the central Oxford recruitment portal here (job ref: 125281). One other similar position will also come available in the next 6-12 months.
Congratulations to the soon-to-be Dr Georgios Papageorgiou for successfully defending his D.Phil thesis on reward-guided learning and irrational decision making yesterday.
Following the award of Mark's SRF, 1-2 new post-doc positions will be opening up shortly. We'll be looking for talented people with experience of using optogenetics, chemogenetics and physiological recording to understand reward-guided behaviours. Any interested candidates should first email me directly.
The lab's core funding has been renewed following the award of a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship to Mark. The project will investigate the role of dopamine in regulating action initiation and self-control, using combinations of fast-scan cyclic voltammetry, optogenetics, chemogenetics and calcium imaging.