Job ID: 114069

PhD student position “Biological mechanisms linking synaptic plasticity and sleep in health and disease“ – 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 Pharmacy and 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 “Biological mechanisms linking synaptic plasticity and sleep in health and disease” at the Brain and Sleep Research Laboratory, University of Camerino.


Project description

Sleep is a universal behavior important to ensure correct brain functioning and adaptation to a continuously changing environment. Synaptic potentiation and weakening occur across the sleep-wake cycle in different ways depending on the brain region, are essential for many cognitive functions (e.g., learning, emotion regulation, and motivated behavior), and are altered in several neuropsychiatric disorders.

The aim of this project is to map the link between sleep, synaptic plasticity, and neuropsychiatric disorders by probing the molecular, ultrastructural, and functional changes occurring across the sleep/wake cycle in health and disease. To this aim, the candidate will measure synaptic plasticity using light and electron microscopy, calcium imaging, and single-cell omics techniques in healthy animals and in preclinical models of neuropsychiatric disorders. The candidates will be also trained to carry out chronic polysomnography, in vivo electrophysiology, and behavioral testing.


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 a neuroscientist with experience in microscopy, in-vivo imaging, and electrophysiology. 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 passion for neuroscience and sleep research, a proactive attitude in studying relevant literature, formulate plausible hypothesis and experiments to test them. Self-motivation, curiosity, and ability to work both alone and in team are essential characteristics. Background in neurophysiology, interest in learning microscopy techniques, and a propensity to care for details are desirable.

ERC Field: 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. LS5_5 Neural bases of cognitive processes (e.g., memory, learning, attention).

Key words:  Sleep homeostasis, Neuroanatomy, Calcium imaging, Molecular biology, In vivo models of psychiatric disorders.

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: Luisa DE VIVO           

To apply:

Research Topic Code: 3.19