Job ID: 114055

PhD student position “Sleep enhancement in neurodegenerative diseases“ – 3 years

Position: Ph.D. Student

Deadline: 4 August 2023

Employment Start Date: 1 November 2023

Contract Length: 3 years

City: Camerino

Country: Italy

Institution: University of Camerino

Department: School of Biosciences


In the context of the Italian PhD program in “Theoretical and Applied Neuroscience” that involves multiple Italian universities and research centers, a position is open for a research project entitled “Sleep enhancement in neurodegenerative diseases” at the Brain and Sleep Research Laboratory, University of Camerino.


Project description

Tauopathies are a broad range of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and other diseases. They are characterized by the pathological aggregation of tau protein within brain cells and its spreading to other brain cells. Recent research demonstrated that loss of sleep favors pathological accumulation and spreading of tau-protein. This implies that sleep may exert a protective role from the development of tauopathies or in preventing their progression.

The goal of this PhD project is to understand whether we can slow down tau protein accumulation and spreading by enhancing sleep. Recent research demonstrated that rocking or playing tones while one is asleep can boost the intensity of sleep in both humans and rodents. In this project we will apply these approaches to a mouse model of tauopathy, in which we will evaluate the extent of tau accumulation and spreading using microscopy and molecular biology methods, and consequent behavioral deficits. This research will help clarify why sleep is good for our health and whether more intense sleep can reduce the accumulation and spreading of tau protein. This research may lead to the development and use of alternative approaches to treat neurodegenerative diseases based on improved sleep, such as “smart rocking beds” or “wearable audio-headbands” that take advantage of sensory stimulation during sleep to increase efficacy of sleep.


Research team and environment

The lab aims at understanding the functions and mechanisms of sleep in health and disease. Our research combines morphological and functional methods of analysis in both animals and humans to investigate why sleep is beneficial for the brain at the molecular, circuit and behavioral level.

One line of research aims to address the consequences of sleep impairment across the lifecycle and to characterize the interaction between sleep disruption and other environmental and genetic factors. Another research topic focuses on the therapeutic potential of sleep enhancement to improve health and cognition at different levels. The lab explores also scientific questions linking sleep to glial cells, gut microbiome, cellular metabolism, adipose tissue, torpor, etc., thanks to the collaboration with other research groups within the University of Camerino and outside. Relevant publications and key interests of the research group can be found at

The supervisor is neurologist and neuroscientist with experience in experimental neuroscience. The research group includes post-doctoral fellows, PhD students, and trainees with different backgrounds including neuroscience, biology, engineering, and physics.

Facilities available include: 1500m2 vivarium fully equipped for rodent breeding, maintenance and behavioral testing (Ethovision and multiple test apparata), 40 operating chambers, surgery rooms, 2 Open Ephys acquisition boxes for in vivo electrophysiology recordings, 1 miniaturized microscope (Inscopix nVoke), 14 sleep deprivation chambers; equipped histology labs, wet labs with all basic molecular biology and biochemistry equipment including HPLC, plate reader Tecan and multiplex Luminex; equipment for single-cells sorting and transcriptomics; Nikon confocal microscope, Zeiss Axio Imager fluorescent microscope, STEM electron microscope Zeiss with Zen connect for CLEM.


Preferred Research Skills and Competences

The ideal candidate has a genuine interest for neuroscience and sleep research, a proactive attitude in studying relevant literature, formulate plausible hypothesis and experiments to test them. Self-motivation and ability to work both alone and in team are essential characteristics. Background in neurophysiology and molecular biology is desirable. An interest in assembling circuits and other electronic components (e.g., Arduino), and basic knowledge of Matlab or Python could be of advantage.

ERC Field: LS5_7 Neurological disorders (e.g., neurodegenerative diseases, seizures); LS5_6 Neural bases of behavior (e.g., sleep, consciousness, addiction); LS5_1 Neural cell function, communication and signaling, neurotransmission in neuronal and/or glial cells.

Key words:  Tauopathies, Neuropathology, Closed-Loop brain stimulation, Electrophysiology, Molecular biology, In vivo models.

Host Institution: University of Camerino – Brain and Sleep Research Laboratory

Net Salary: 1.2K Euros/month (+50% for periods spent abroad; 8K Euros budget for travel and education)

Reference person/supervisor: Michele BELLESI           

To apply:

Research Topic Code: 3.18