Job ID: 116607

a PHD position in circuit neuroscience

Position: Ph.D. Student

Deadline: 31 October 2023

Contract Length: 3 years

City: Paris

Country: France

Institution: Institut Pasteur/ Paris-Saclay Institute of Neuroscience



A PhD position  is available in the context of  the international PhD fellowship competition in the labs of Tihana Jovanic et Jean-Baptiste Masson:

PhD proposal

 The biological and computational rules of neuromodulation underlying behaviour flexibility at the neural circuit level

Acronym: BEACON

We are looking for a motivated student, willing to work in a highly interdisciplinary lab in a project mixing theory, modeling and neuroscience with one of the following profiles:
– A quantitative scientist, with a strong background in statistical physics or applied mathematics, programming skills in python or C. Willingness to learn about neuroscience and experimental biology
– A neuroscientist with practical lab experience (in animal behavior, confocal and/or 2-photon imaging preferred), basis in quantitive analysis

Interested candidates should contact  Tihana Jovanic and/or Jean-Baptiste Masson:

Tihana Jovanic

Institut des Neurosciences Paris Saclay, CNRS, Université Paris-Saclay, France

Jean-Baptiste Masson

Institut Pasteur, Université Paris Cité, CNRS UMR 3751, Decision and Bayesian Computation, Paris, France


Project description:



Locomotion is essential for survival across the animal kingdom as it underlies various goal-directed behaviours, like food search, mating and avoiding danger. Environmental contexts and internal states influence will both animal behaviour by affecting the speed and type of locomotion used, for example.  At the neural circuit level, this flexibility in locomotor behaviour may be achieved via neuromodulation. However, understanding the precise neural circuit mechanisms, involved neuromodulators, and their effects on specific circuits remains a challenge. 

We seek to understand, experimentally and theoretically, the neural mechanism of neuromodulation and its implementation in a complete sensorimotor circuit of the Drosophila larva, which offers many advantages for neural circuit mapping.




At the neural circuit level, behavioural flexibility is thought to be implemented by neuromodulation. This modulation can be done by altering the resting membrane potential of targeted neurons or by modulating the strength of existing synaptic connections. This neuromodulation can alter the dynamics of the behaviour being performed and the type of actions expressed in a given context. The outcome of the network can differ depending on the neuropeptide being released, for example, Refs1–8.  Sensorimotor circuits must have evolved to allow flexible information processing and the ability of internal or external stimuli to modulate target neurons within the network to bias its output We expect these circuits to have characteristic motifs favouring the neuromodulatory activity. 

However, detailed neural circuit mechanisms underlying the state and context-dependent behaviour modulation, the neuromodulators involved, and their mechanism on sensorimotor circuits need to be deciphered.

Drosophila offers many advantages to make rapid progress in elucidating the mechanisms of neuromodulation in complete circuits1,2. First, the full neural connectome5 is now available. Genetic tools3,4 available in Drosophila combined with the rapid reproductive cycle makes it possible to manipulate both genetic and neuronal activity in a cell-type-specific manner and quickly detect changes in behaviour. Advances in optical neurophysiology allow the analysis of the physiological properties of neurons and their functional relationships. Finally, deciphering the properties and function of small neural circuits6–8, characterizing the larva dynamics with dictionaries of behaviour9,10,  learning11 and performing robust operant learning12 has been demonstrated in the larva.


Combining theoretical modeling, with sensorimotor  circuit mapping , quantitaive behavioral analysis, optogenetics and càlcium-imaging the goal of the project is to exploit the advantages of the Drosophila larva to tackle the neural basis of behavioral flexibility across the nervous system