To hunt or to run: Functional maps in the brain to detect prey or approaching threats

Leuven - Master projects/internships
Meer dan twee weken geleden

We aim to map the functional properties of neurons that detect visual threat or prey across visual space by recording neural responses in behaving mice.

Neural circuits that go through the superior colliculus are crucially involved in shifting attention towards passing by prey or an approaching threat. While typical threats of mice appear from overhead, a mouse's prey is on the ground. The superior colliculus is retinotopically organized, each location in visual space can be mapped onto a specific point on its surface, but recent work from the lab suggests that visual response properties change across visual space, potentially reflecting an adaptation to ecological needs. Genetically-identified wide-field neurons in the superior colliculus respond to visual stimuli mimicking a passing by or quickly approaching object but it is yet to be determined if their response properties are homogenous across space. Our aim is to identify whether there are functional differences of these neurons depending on where they "look" in space. Using viral labeling techniques and two-photon imaging, we will map the response properties of wide-field neurons across visual space in head-fixed, behaving mice. This will allow us to identify whether there are biases that manifest in these maps that would allow the detection of prey on the ground or of threats from overhead. The successful applicant will be involved in the two-photon recordings of neural activity in awake mice, as well as analysing the recorded response properties.

Type of project: Internship, Thesis, Combination of internship and thesis

Duration: 6-12 months

Required degree: Master of Science, Master of Engineering Science, Master of Bioengineering

Required background: Biomedical engineering, Bioscience Engineering, Computer Science, Electromechanical engineering, Electrotechnics/Electrical Engineering, Physics

Supervising scientist(s): For further information or for application, please contact: Norma Kuhn ( and Karl Farrow (

Only for self-supporting students

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