Karolinska Institutet, Fisone

The Department of Neuroscience includes several research groups working on different aspects of nervous system function, both under normal conditions and in various disease states. Research projects include a broad range of studies on the molecular and cellular levels, networks of neurons, and the organization of the nervous system as a whole. The Department has a flat organization with 40 researchers, of which 24 are full professors and 65 PhD students.

Teaching represents a fundamental activity at the Department, which participates in several undergraduate courses and postgraduate education programs. Each year approximately 15 students receive their PhD from our Department and many of our graduates have gone onto distinguished careers in the academic or private sector.

We are recruiting a student for doctoral education. After a candidate is selected, an admission process commences. The candidate is admitted as a student once an individual study plan for the doctoral education has been approved by the departmental admission board.  

For more information regarding doctoral (PhD) education, see: http://www.ki.se/doctoral

Research group
The present project is based on the interaction between two laboratories that study different aspects of dopamine transmission and basal ganglia circuitry utilizing a highly complementary repertoire of methodological approaches.

The laboratory of the main supervisor, Dr. Gilberto Fisone at Karolinska Institutet, is specialized in the study of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and particularly in the complications linked to pharmacological therapies, which represent the most common approach to the treatment of this disorder.

The laboratory has developed animal models of motor and non-motor symptoms of PD, as well as L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia. More recently, Dr. Fisone started studying the addictive-like and compulsive dysfunctions observed in a significant proportion of Parkinsonian patients in response to standard dopamine replacement therapies. The laboratory is specialized in the behavioral and molecular characterization of animal models of disease. 

The laboratory of the co-supervisor, Dr. Antonello Bonci at National Institute on Drug Abuse (USA), studies the mechanisms and circuits at the basis of drug addiction. Dr. Bonci’s work has led to fundamental discoveries in this field. His research group uses advanced electrophysiological, transgenic, optogenetic and behavioral approaches to clarify the effects of drugs of abuse in various regions within the brain reward system, including the striatal formation, midbrain dopaminergic neurons and various cortical areas.

The doctoral education project and the duties of the student
Treatment of PD, a frequent neurodegenerative disorders, is based on the use of dopaminergic drugs, such as L-DOPA and dopamine receptor agonists. These substances are often very effective, particularly during the initial phases of the disease, but their prolonged use leads to the development of motor complications and serious psychiatric disorders. About 5% of PD patients subjected to dopamine replacement therapy develop a pathogical condition similar to drug abuse and referred to as dopamine dysregulation syndrome (DDS).

Patients with DDS develop an addictive pattern of self-medication, which exceeds that required to control the motor symptoms of PD. In addition to DDS, approximately 15% of PD patients develop stereotyped behavior (punding) and impulse control disorders (ICD), such as pathological gambling, and compulsive shopping and eating. In spite of the negaitive impact on the quality of life of the patients and their families, the mechanisms at the basis of these conditions are still poorly understood.

We hypothesize that DDS and ICD are the result of hyper-excitability in the dorsal striatum and propose to test this possibility by:

(1) Optimizing a mouse model of PD displaying DDS and obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) in response to dopamine replacement therapies and

(2) Examining the ability of selected pharmacological and genetic interventions to counteract DDS and OCD.

Because of the collaborative nature of the project, the student will work in two different laboratories located in Sweden and the US. Good interactive competence, control of the English language and adaptability to different environments will be an absolute requirement.  

Entry requirements for doctoral education at KI
To be eligible for doctoral education following requirements has to be met:

General entry requirements
A person meets the general entry requirements for doctoral/third-cycle/PhD education (according to Higher Education Ordinance Chapt 7, section 39) if he/she:

  1. has been awarded advanced/second-cycle/master qualification (i.e. master degree) or
  2. has satisfied the requirements for courses comprising at least 240 credits of which at least 60 credits were awarded in the second-cycle/master level, or
  3. has acquired substantially equivalent knowledge in some other way in Sweden or abroad.

Specific entry requirements
Proficiency in English equivalent to the course English B/English 6 at Swedish upper secondary school:
Proficiency in the English language can be documented by an internationally recognized test such as TOEFL or IELTS, see web-link below for more information.
Applicants who meet the general entry requirements (1 or 2 above) from a university in one of the Nordic countries fulfill the requirements in English.

For more information regarding general and specific entry requirements: http://ki.se/en/education/entry-requirements-eligibility-for-doctoral-education

Skills and personal qualities
The student should have familiarity with handling of experimental animals (i.e. mice) and mouse behavioral models of Parkinson’s disease, addiction and obsessive/compulsive disorders. Previous experience in microsurgery and basic principles of maintenance of trangenic colonies is a critical requirement. FELASA C certificate is highly desirable.

Assessment criteria
A selection will be made among qualified applicants on the basis of the ability to benefit from doctoral education. Karolinska Institutet uses the following bases of assessment:
- Documented subject knowledge of relevance to the area of research
- Analytical skill
- Other documented knowledge or experience that may be relevant to doctoral studies in the subject

The qualifications of the applicants will be evaluated on an overall basis.

Terms and conditions
All doctoral students at KI receive financial support during their doctoral education and employment on a doctoral studentship is the most common sort of support. During the time between recruitment and admission a short-term employment can be offered for up to 6 months.

Application process
An application must contain the following documents in Swedish or English:

  • A personal letter and curriculum vitae
  • A copy of degree certificates and associated certificates
  • A copy of degree projects and any previous publications

The application is to be submitted through the Varbi recruitment system.

Type of employment Doktorandplats
Contract type Full time
Reference number 2-617/2018
  • Gilberto Fisone, professor, , gilberto.fisone@ki.se
Published 30.Jan.2018
Last application date 20.Feb.2018 11:59 PM CET

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