Young Investigator Training Programme (YITP)

What is the Young Investigator Training Programme, YITP?

The Young Investigator Training Programme (YITP) provides an opportunity for Young Investigators from around the world to come and work in a UK-based research lab for 2-3 weeks preceding the FENS Forum. 

Projects are short, focused, and provide training and networking opportunities.

This need-based program facilitates opportunities for students wishing to advance their careers.


Who is it for?

Early career scientists (masters and PhD/MD students or junior postdocs) can apply to participate in YITP.

The YITP is being organised by the Host Society Committee and British Neuroscience Association on the occasion of the FENS Forum


How can I apply for a placement?

An online application procedure will be opened in December, 2019. Please check back here for details.


Who is supporting YITP?

The International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) is generously funding the YITP.

IBRO is a global federation of neuroscience organizations that aims to promote and support neuroscience around the world through training, teaching, research, outreach and engagement activities, and the publication of two journals: Neuroscience and IBRO Reports. IBRO has partnerships with like-minded scientific societies and organizations to identify priorities and help bridge gaps in knowledge, investment and resources in the field of brain research.


How many and what placements are available?

We plan to make 30 YITP Awards.

The following labs - grouped according to the topic  of resesarch- have offered to host a YITP placement. 

Synaptic Physiology

Principal Investigator (PI): Prof. Robert Hindges
Title: Visualisation of synaptic proteins in live zebrafish

Description: Students will inject expression constructs for fluorescently tagged synaptic proteins into zebrafish embryos and after a few days image live larvae using state-of-the-art light sheet fluorescent microscopy. Data will then be visualised in specific imaging processing software. The student will get an insight into zebrafish husbandry, embryology, developmental neurobiology and fluorescent imaging.  

Principal Investigator (PI): Prof. Seth Grant
Title: New synaptome mapping techniques

Description: The student will learn how to use new synaptome mapping techniques (see doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.07.007) to study synapse diversity in the mouse or human brain. The project will involve the use of molecular labelling techniques for measuring static and dynamic synapse proteome compositions at single-synapse resolution, imaging techniques using spinning disc microscopy and image analysis tools for creating synaptome maps and atlases of the brain.

Principal Investigator (PI):  Melanie I Stefan
Title: Computational models of synaptic signalling pathways

Description: The Stefan Lab at the University of Edinburgh ( develops comptuational models to understand learning and memory. In this project, you will work with a model of biochemical signalling in the synapse and run simulations to better understand the molecular basis of synaptic plasticity. Prior knowledge of computational modelling or programming is not required.

Principal Investigator (PI): Dr Andrew Young
Title: Mechanisms controlling dopamine release measured in rat brain slices, using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry

Description: The project will involve measuring the effects of specific drugs on electrically stimulated dopamine release in rat brain slices, to determine mechanisms of neurotransmitter interactions. The student will learn the preparation brain slices for recording, Identification and measurement of dopamine by fast-scan cyclic voltammetry, and analysis of the data.



PI:  Dr. H. Rheinallt Parri
Title:     Astrocyte calcium imaging

Description: Project will involve the imaging of calcium activity in astrocytes and determining the effect of neurotransmitter receptor activation on astrocyte activity patterns. Student will learn fluorescence calcium imaging and analysis.

PIs:        Dr Mark Dallas and Dr Angela Bithell
Title:     Exploring the role of microglia in health and disease

Description: The role of microglia in health and neurodegenerative diseases is gaining significant research interest. This project will allow the visiting researcher to assess microglial characteristics in in vitro models of health and/or disease, focusing on one or more of the following: (a) gene expression, (b) morphology, (c) bioenergetics, (d) electrophysiology.

PI: Professor Tara Spires-Jones
Title: Examining interactions of glia with synapses in Alzheimer's disease

Description: The student on this project will learn how the Spires-Jones lab team is investigating the interactions of microglia and astrocytes with synapse degeneration in Alzheimer's disease. The lab uses human postmortem brain tissue and disease models combined with high resolution imaging to examine mechanisms of synapse loss and the spread of pathological proteins through the brain.


Mapping and Connectivity

PI:          Dr. Christian Wozny
Title:     Combining ‘classical’ brain slice electrophysiology with optogenetics to unravel neuronal circuitry

Description: This project will utilize a recently developed technique called Channelrhodopsin (ChR2)-assisted circuit mapping to understand the neuronal wiring diagram. The student will learn how to combine light stimulation of ChR2-expressing neurons/axonal fibres with ‘classical’ whole-cell patch-clamp recordings in brain slice preparations.

PI:          Dr. Andrei Kozlov
Title:     Signal propagation in auditory cortex measured with high-density multi-electrode arrays.

Description: This project will use high-density CMOS MEA technology to characterize functional connectivity in the rat auditory cortex. A suitable candidate should be experienced in electrophysiology in acute brain slices, pharmacology and data analysis.

PI:          Dr. Andrei Kozlov
Title:     Afferent and efferent signaling in the mature rat cochlea
Description: The aim of this project is to determine the tonotopic and apical-basal localization of key afferent and efferent signaling proteins as well as changes in synaptic physiology following noise-mediated hearing loss in rats.  This project combines immunohistochemistry and electrophysiology.

PI:          Dr Volko Straub
Title:     Hunger-related changes in the neuronal properties of identified neurons

Description: The project will study the effects of satiety on the synaptic connectivity and intrinsic properties of identified neurons in a molluscan brain. It will provide the opportunity to learn electrophysiological techniques using sharp intracellular electrodes (current clamp, two electrode voltage clamp) in an easily accessible model system.

PI:          Prof Annette Dolphin
Title:     Super-resolution Airyscan imaging of neurons

Description: The student will perform immunohistochemistry on sections of knock-in mouse brain containing a tagged ion channel.  They will then visualise the distribution of the channel in neurons using confocal Airyscan imaging.


Sensory Processing, Cognition, and Behaviour

PI:          Dr. Shuzo Sakata
Title:     State-dependent and cell-type-specific information processing in mouse brain

Description: Students will learn some of state-of-the-art in vivo experimental approaches in the lab, including electrophysiological, optogenetic, imaging and behavioural approaches in mice, together with computational methods, such as machine learning.

PI:          Professor Matt Nolan    
Title:     Circuit mechanisms for computations underlying spatial cognition and memory

Description: Our approach combines in vivo and ex-vivo electrophysiological approaches, circuit mapping and theoretical models. We are happy to offer a project in any one of these areas.

PI:          Dr Emiliano Merlo
Title:     Neural mechanism supporting foraging inhibition through extinction

Description: Foraging is an essential activity for animals adapting to an ever-changing environment. Such behaviour is a consequence of an interaction between instrumental and Pavlovian memory components. Perseverative foraging in absence of food leads to memory extinction. During this short-stay project we will investigate molecular correlates associated with the extinction of these memory components. The experimental approach will include behavioural and molecular biological analyses.

PI:          Professor Rasmus Petersen
Title:     Cracking neural codes by applying powerful computational techniques

Description: Spikes are the atoms of neural information processing.  In this project – in the Petersen lab at Manchester - you will have the chance to try to crack neural codes by applying powerful computational techniques, such as information theory and machine learning, to electrophysiological and/or Calcium imaging data recorded from the somatosensory system.

PI:          Prof Stuart Baker
Title:     Studying inhibitory circuits in motor cortex of human using transcranial magnetic stimulation

Description: You will use transcranial magnetic brain stimulation methods in healthy human subjects to probe how inhibitory circuits within the motor cortex modulate with preparation of movement. The project will provide training in aspects of human electrophysiology; you will also have the opportunity to observe our parallel programme of studies in non-human primates.

PI:          Dr Neil Harrison
Title:     EEG correlates of aesthetic processing

Description: You will record EEG signals from healthy human subjects to investigate neural processing related to aesthetic judgements of paintings and photographs. The project will include training in the collection and analysis of data from human electrophysiological recordings.

PI:          The PIs of the Behavioural Neuroscience Group at the University of Nottingham (Tobias Bast, Helen Cassaday, Claire Gibson and Paula Moran) 
Two places available
Title:     Identifying neural mechanisms of behaviour and cognition

Description: The early-career scientist (up to 2 places available) can participate in ongoing behavioural and neuroscience experiments in rodent models, which are aimed at identifying neural mechanisms of behaviour and cognition in health and brain disorders. Due to the strict legal regulation of animal experiments in the UK, the successful candidates will typically not be able to perform in vivo procedures independently (unless they hold a UK Home Office licence), but they will have the opportunity to observe these procedures. Further information about ongoing research projects can be found on our webpage (, which also contains links to the PIs’ webpages (under the ‘Group members’ heading).

PIs:        Dr Belinda F. Hornby and Dr Nikola J. Bridges, University of Central Lancashire
Title:     The effects of anxiolytic and anxiogenic drugs on Drosophila melanogaster, when placed in novel exploratory environments

Description: The project involves pharmacological and behavioural validation of novel exploratory models of anxiety in D melanogaster. The work involves behavioural analysis using Ethovision TX ( following administration of anxiolytic and anxiogenic drugs to the fruit flies.

PI:          Dr Karen Hind
Title:     Understanding the effects of sub concussive impacts on the brain in contact sports

Description: There is growing concern about how participation in contact sports affects the brain. The visiting young investigator will explore changes in blood markers of brain trauma, including GFAP, NF-L  and S100B, across one season in a cohort of professional athletes. The placement will involve laboratory and data analysis skills, and working in a multidisciplinary sport and exercise sciences and integrative neuroscience team.



PI:          Professor Peter McNaughton/Dr Chris Tsantoulas
Title:     HCN2 ion channels as drivers of migraine pain.

Description:  Migraine is an excruciating and common condition but the cellular and molecular drivers of the intense migraine headache are poorly understood. In our lab we have implemented a number of behavioural models of migraine in rats and mice, and we combine these models with molecular studies to understand the fundamental drivers of migraine pain. We have obtained evidence for repetitive neural activity in nociceptive (pain-sensitive) nerves that innervate the meninges (the coverings of the brain). We believe that this activity in nociceptive nerve fibres underlies the intense headache that people with migraine find most distressing. We have identified an ion channel called HCN2 as the underlying driver of repetitive neural activity and therefore of migraine pain. A YITP investigator in our lab will be able to see in action a number of the experiments that we are conducting to identify the molecular drivers of migraine pain.

PI:          Dr Ewan St. John Smith
Title:     Sensory neurophysiology and pain

Description: Pain is a complex phenomenon involving peripheral sensory neurones and central integration. Using a combination of patch-clamp electrophysiology on primary sensory neurones and ex vivo electrophysiological analysis of colonic sensory nerve preparations it is possible to identify the peripheral mediators of pain and thus identify new targets for therapeutic intervention. This project will present the opportunity for learning new electrophysiological techniques and their application to the neurophysiology of pain.

PI:          Dr Franziska Denk, King’s College London
Title:     Neuroimmune interactions in chronic pain.

Description: Chronic pain is a devastating condition that ultimately results from a hypersensitive nervous system. We are interested in uncovering the mechanisms that cause this hypersensitivity and thus pain to become chronic. Your project specifically would involve studying the role of neuroimmune interactions in this context. Please check out our laboratory webpage to find out more about the team and what we do:


Disorder and Disease

PI:          Dr Patrick Lewis
Title:     Using genomic and proteomic data to understand complex neurological disease

Description: Genomic and proteomic approaches to understanding complex neurological disease provide powerful tools to dissect disease mechanisms. This project will provide the visiting fellow/student with an introduction to integrating genomic and proteomic data, with a focus on investigating gene and protein interactions to understand disease etiology. The project will involve using a range of bioinformatic tools to investigating large scale datasets available through free-to-access repositories and literature mining.



PI:          Dr Kevin Kemp

Title:     Developing bone marrow stem cell therapies for neurodegenerative disease

Description: Bone marrow stem cell transplantation is increasingly being trialled as a potential treatment for chronic degenerative and inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system. Using a range of cell culture, immunohistochemistry and microscopy techniques this project will therefore investigate pharmacological and genetic approaches to enhance the therapeutic impact of bone marrow stem cells in these conditions.



PI:          Hui-Rong Jiang

Title:     Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis as an animal model for multiple sclerosis

Description: Learning how animal models are induced to investigate the immunopathogenesis of central nervous system inflammatory disease such as multiple sclerosis.



PI:          The Brain Inflammation Group in Manchester

Title:     The role of inflammation in cerebrovascular disease and dementia

Description: The work spans the whole translational pathway, from discovery science through preclinical models, experimental medicine studies and clinical trials. As a group we would be happy to host two students under the IBRO-sponsored Young Investigator Training Program (YITP). The students would have the opportunity to work alongside PhD students, postdoctoral research associates and research fellows on ongoing projects and would be exposed to a number of different experimental approaches, as well as taking part in weekly lab meetings.



PI:          Prof Elizabeta B. Mukaetova-Ladinska

Title:     Tubulin changes in  ischaemic brain injury: Implications for Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Description: The project will explore microtubule changes in brain tissue of people with dementia. It will provide an opportunity to learn establishing immunoassays to address posttranslational modifications of proteins involved in stabilizing microtubule network, applying the technique to brain tissue, data collection and analysis.



PI:          Dr Vassilios Beglopoulos, University of Central Lancashire

Title:     Cellular mechanisms underlying memory retrieval in wild-type and APP transgenic mice

Description: Previous work in a mouse model has identified that memory retrieval is associated with a hypermetabolic response in the brain in wild-type mice, but not in pre-pathological APP transgenic mice bearing a familial Alzheimer’s disease mutation, in which memory retrieval is specifically impaired. This placement will be part of a series of projects aiming to shed light on the cellular and biochemical mechanisms underlying this phenotype, using proteomics, Western blot and physiological approaches.



PI:          Sarah King (+ members of the Alzhemer’s Society Doctoral Training Centre)

Title:     APOE: from molecules to minds APOE: from molecules to minds

Description: The placement student would take a transdisciplnary voyage through the work on the   role of the APOE gene as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease. They would visit several of the labs hosting students within our Alzheimer’s Society Doctoral Training Centre (, exploring work on synapse structure and function, through to mouse and human behavioural and neuroimaging studies.



PI:          Dr Wayne Grant Carter

Title:     Protein damage in brains from Parkinson’s disease patients

Description: This project will involve an assessment of protein damage and proteomic changes in the brains (post-mortem tissue) of Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients when compared to age and sex matched control subjects.  A combination of one and two dimensional protein separation and immuno-blotting techniques will be employed, for which full training will be provided.



PI:          Dr. Pau Ll Chazot FBPhS

Title:     Bioprospecting a natural plant product in a Drosophila fly model of Parkinson’s Disease

Description: A selected natural plant product extract, based on a range of previous in vitro experiments, will be tested in the PINK-1 Drosophila melanogaster fly model of familial Parkinson’s disease (PD) for effects upon healthy lifespan to middle age (2 weeks), and a range of behaviours applicable to PD, namely motor activity, social behaviour and memory performance. In the final week, fly brain samples collected after 2 weeks will be assayed for reactive oxygen species (ROS) and dopamine generation.



PI:          Kurt De Vos

Title:     ER-mitochondria contacts in neurodegeneration

Description: An estimated 5–20% of mitochondria are closely associated with a subdomain of the ER called mitochondria-associated ER membranes (MAMs), and inter-organelle communication at these contact sites has been shown to regulate several physiological processes including calcium (Ca2+) homeostasis, autophagy/mitophagy, mitochondrial dynamics, phospholipid synthesis, the unfolded protein response, apoptosis, and inflammasome activation. Disruption of ER–mitochondria contact sites has been implicated in  a number of neurodegenerative diseases including amyothrophic lateral sclerosis, frontotemporal dementia and Parkinson's disease. Despite their obvious importance in health and disease, how ER–mitochondria contacts are formed and regulated is still poorly understood. You will join our team investigating signalling pathways that regulate ER–mitochondria interactions and their involvement in neurodegenerative diseases.