Job ID: 117850

PhD studentship for Developing Auditory Closed-Loop Stimulation Therapeutics for a Marmoset Model of Social Cognition Disorders

Position: Ph.D. Student

Deadline: 4 March 2024

Contract Length: 3 years


Country: UK

Institution: Newcastle University

Department: Biosciences Institute, Faculty of Medical Sciences


About the Project


Atypical theta synchrony between the amygdala and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is a hallmark of social cognitive disorders such as anxiety and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The mPFC-amygdala circuit is extensively connected with auditory regions that are responsive to natural vocalisations characterised by theta rhythms. These vocalisations entrain theta oscillations in the auditory cortex, facilitating sound processing in both humans and nonhuman primates. Thus, auditory stimulation offers a promising non-invasive approach to modulate theta oscillations within the amygdala-mPFC circuitry. This project aims to develop a novel marmoset model with closed-loop acoustic stimulation designed to influence prefrontal-amygdala theta oscillations and social cognitive behaviours.

The project will involve 3 phases:

  1. Create a wireless electrophysiology system for auditory stimulation in free-moving marmosets.
  2. Implement closed-loop auditory stimulation using phase-shifted local field potentials to manipulate theta oscillations in the amygdala and the mPFC.
  3. Evaluate the stimulation’s effect on marmoset social cognition using tests derived from those for autistic children.


Timed closed-loop auditory stimulation, synchronised with theta oscillations in the mPFC-amygdala circuit, modulates these oscillations and thereby regulates social cognitive functions.


Employing the auditory stimulation closed-loop system with human EEG, the student will tailor this technology to control theta oscillations in the marmoset amygdala and prefrontal cortex circuitry. The student will examine the impact of auditory stimulation on marmoset natural social behaviours at their home cages using AI-based motion detection systems. Marmosets are well-suited for this proposal due to their highly developed vocal communication abilities, intricate social structures, and well-developed frontal cortex.

Potential Impact

Successful outcomes may establish the basis for novel closed-loop therapies using acoustic stimulation to enhance social cognition, significantly advancing mental health treatments.

Supervisory team

The student will join a multidisciplinary team at Newcastle University and undergo comprehensive training in bioengineering, neurotechnology, primate electrophysiology and behavioural testing closely aligned with clinical research to enhance the study’s translational potential. Dr Yuki Kikuchi has extensive experience in primate auditory neuroscience and her laboratory is well-equipped for developing closed-loop electrophysiology systems on behaving nonhuman primates through her strong collaboration with the neural engineering team that provides the development of wireless recording and closed-loop neurostimulation algorithms. Dr Marc Woodbury-Smith, a clinical academic specialising in ASD, will facilitate the translation of primate research findings to therapies for autistic children, boosting the study’s clinical application potential.

How to Apply:

FURTHER DETAILS AND A GUIDE TO THE FORMAT REQUIRED FOR THE APPLICATION DOCUMENTS IS AVAILABLE AT . Please read the information there before submitting your application. Applications not meeting these criteria may be rejected.

Complete and submit this online form: Neuroscience Studentship Application Form

You will also need to submit the following documents by email. Details of how to do this are given in the Application Form.

  • a CV (including contact details of two academic referees).
  • a cover letter. This should explain your particular interest in the projects selected, and include any additional information you feel is pertinent to your application
  • copies of your degree transcripts and certificates
  • a copy of your passport (photo page).
  • your English language certificate (IELTS or TOEFL certificate, where applicable)

Documents should be submitted as pdf files. Do not submit photos of certificates.

Email for enquires about how to apply: 

Informal enquiries about the project should be made to the supervisors:

Dr Yuki Kikuchi – 

Funding Notes

PhD studentships are funded by the Newcastle Neuroscience Fund for 3 years. Funding will cover tuition fees at the UK rate only, a Research Training and Support Grant and a stipend (£19,544 p.a., currently for 2023/24). Applications are welcomed from students in all countries, although students from outside the UK will be required to pay full international fees. International students may be eligible for additional financial support to cover some, or all, of these fees.


Reference 1: Kikuchi, Y. et al. Sequence learning modulates neural responses and oscillatory coupling in human and monkey auditory cortex. PLOS Biology 15, e2000219 (2017).
Reference 2: Zaaimi, B. et al. Closed-loop optogenetic control of the dynamics of neural activity in non-human primates. Nat. Biomed. Eng 7, 559–575 (2023).