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Currently Accepting Applications


Prospective Graduate Students

The Duncan Lab is now accepting applications from prospective graduate students!

We have two openings for graduate students for the September 2018 term.  We use a variety of techniques in the lab, ranging from functional brain imaging, neuropsychological testing, pharmacological manipulations, intracranial EEG, eye-tracking and computational modeling. Graduate students in Duncan Lab have the opportunity to use any combination of these tools to study the neural basis of episodic memory or reward learning. Graduate students also receive extensive hands-on training in both theory and methods, enabling them to ask deeply significant questions and have the tools to answer them.

Ideal candidates would have a degree in psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, or computer science as well as research experience. The department also normally requires an A- average in the last two years of undergraduate study. Some training with cognitive neuroscience techniques and/or quantitative training (including but not limited to programming experience in Python, R or Matlab) are highly desirable, though not required.

Prospective students are encouraged to apply to work solely in the Duncan Lab or to be co-advised by one of our collaborators. Here are just some of the active collaborations that have openings for graduate students:

 

How does cholinergic and dopaminergic dysfunction influence memory in Parkinson’s Disease

Collaborator: Melanie Cohn, Toronto Western Hospital

Parkinson’s Disease results in a progressive, unrelenting decline in dopaminergic and cholinergic innervation across the brain. The growing appreciation that cognitive decline in these patients parallels the trajectory of their neurological pathologies raises questions about how dopaminergic and cholinergic dysfunction each contribute to these impairments. Dr. Cohn and I investigate these questions by focusing on episodic memory and the different sub-processes that may be differentially influenced by acetylcholine and dopamine. An exciting new direction that our collaboration is taking is the incorporation of deep-brain stimulation. We are part of a new clinical trial which is assessing the effectiveness of stimulating cholinergic neurons to treat dementia in Parkinson’s Disease. This approach will allow us to assess the influence of acetylcholine on memory with unprecedented temporal precision. Additionally, with Dr. Cohn’s and my complementary training, the joint trainees will emerge from graduate school with a unique expertise in basic cognitive neuroscience and its clinical applications.


How does estrogen interact with dopamine to modulate memory?

Collaborator: Gillian Einstein, Department of Psychology

There is growing evidence that estradiol interacts with neuromodulators, in particular dopamine, and that this interaction could have important implications for human memory. We know surprising little, however, about how these biological interactions influence memory, especially in adult women, both across a woman’s cycle and across her lifespan. Dr. Einstein and I will tackle this crucial topic by investigating how estrogen and dopamine interact to shape basic episodic memory processes. The student leading this project will receive complementary training in a variety of methods to explore this interaction: cognitive testing and analysis, genetics, neuroimaging, and working with patient populations. The student will also play an integral role in forming the specific research questions and approach, resulting in a unique research program which both explores fundamental mechanisms underlying hippocampus-dependent memory and has significant health implications.


Can deep brain stimulation be used to enhance memory?

Collaborator: Taufik Valiante, Toronto Western Hospital

In recent years, there have been several attempts to develop deep brain stimulation protocols to improve memory.  The majority of these protocols have applied high-frequency stimulation to different neural targets and resulted in some exciting benefits but also mixed success. Dr. Valiante and I use principles identified in rodent models to develop theory-driven approaches to deep-brain stimulation, tailoring the timing and frequency of the stimulation to maximize its potential impact on memory. Students who are part of in this collaboration will have the opportunity to be involved in both stimulating and recording neural activity in epileptic patients awaiting resections to treat their intractable seizures. This research program could, thus, lead to important translational research that improves brain stimulation techniques and which uncovers basic episodic memory phenomenon using the high temporal and spatial resolution afforded by ECoG recordings.

 

Interested candidates should feel free to contact Katherine Duncan (duncan@psych.utoronto.ca) to discuss their fit with the lab.

Recruiting Volunteer RAs

The Duncan Lab is looking for volunteer research assistants!

Research assistant positions in the Duncan Lab

We are looking to accept up to two volunteer research assistants who are willing to contribute 8 hours a week.  RAs will gain direct experience in participant recruitment, assessment, and data collection. Interested applicants should fill out the application form below, and submit it along with a resume, unofficial transcript, and cover letter to duncanlabuoft@gmail.com