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We are looking to recruit potential DPhil students for 2015/16. Some possible research projects are listed below.

Investigating the neurochemistry of abnormal vision (with Professor Andrew Parker).

We have recently begun to use magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to investigate the levels of metabolites, such as GABA and glutamate, in a variety of experimental situations and clinical conditions. Data acquired using FMRIB’s 7T scanner in collaboration with Dr Claudia Lunghi and Professor Concetta Morrone, University of Pisa, suggest that GABA concentration in primary visual cortex can be changed by periods of monocular deprivation. We hypothesise that this is due to a change in the balance between the neurons responding to the two eyes. There are a variety of visual conditions where this balance is affected and this project will use psychophysical and MRS methods to determine the role played by GABA in such conditions.

 

Investigating the fine representation of auditory responses in the congenitally blind brain (with Professor Kate Watkins)

 In a group of subjects born without eyes (congenitally anophthalmic), we have shown activation of the occipital cortex to a variety of auditory stimulation including pure tones and language. This project will exploit the high signal: noise provided by the 7T scanner at the FMRIB Centre to investigate the organisation of auditory function within the occipital cortex and beyond. Functional MRI will be combined with high resolution diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to establish the pathways by which auditory information reaches the occipital lobe. The project will be expanded to include participants with different types of congenital blindness.

 

Determining the functional role of language processing in the occipital cortex (with Professor Kate Watkins)

Our group, and others, have shown that the occipital cortex is activated by language in congenitally blind people. Activity is also seen in the ‘normal’ language areas of the left hemisphere. It is still not clear what function this additional occipital language processing adds to performance in congenitally blind subjects. This project will involve behavioural measures of language performance and application of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to both occipital and frontal language regions to determine the effect of temporarily inactivating the different areas.  

 

If you are interested in any of the above projects, or another project related to our research, please email Dr Holly Bridge (holly.bridge[at]ndcn.ox.ac.uk).