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A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Friday, 21 July 2023
Academic background
Health Sciences, Sciences
Host campus
Dr Louise Parr-Brownlie


Degeneration of midbrain dopamine neurons causes Parkinson's disease. Following loss of dopamine, neuronal activity and ultrastructural changes occur in the basal ganglia-thalamocortical pathway. Recent data from the lab and imaging studies in Parkinson's patients indicate that other brain areas are affected. This project will investigate anatomical changes in glutamatergic and GABAergic neuronal populations in the cerebellum in a rat model of Parkinson's disease. First, cerebellar slices will be immunohistochemically stained for both neuronal phenotypes. The number of GABAergic and glutamatergic neurons will be quantified, and compared between Parkinsonian and control rats. Second, viral vector injections will be used to label GABAergic or glutamatergic neurons to characterise if degeneration occurs in neurons that innervate a specific downstream target. Understanding structural changes in the cerebello-thalamocortical circuit is a first step towards understanding how cerebellar pathology may contribute to Parkinsonian symptoms.

Cerasa A, Hagberg GE, Peppe A, Bianciardi M, Gioia MC, Costa A, Castriota-Scanderbeg A, Caltagirone C, & Sabatini U (2006) Functional changes in the activity of cerebellum and frontostriatal regions during externally and internally timed movement in Parkinson's disease. Brain Res Bull 71: 259-269.

Wu T, & Hallett M (2005) A functional MRI study of automatic movements in patients with Parkinson's disease. Brain 128: 2250-2259.
Yu H, Sternad D, Corcos DM, & Vaillancourt DE (2007) Role of hyperactive cerebellum and motor cortex in Parkinson's disease. Neuroimage 35: 222-233.

Why you should study with us

The Department of Anatomy provides:

  • Supervision by staff who are nationally and internationally recognised in their fields of research.
  • PhD supervisory committees that will provide assistance to both you and your supervisor during your candidature.
  • Provision of appropriate research and study spaces.
  • Access to state-of-the-art research equipment and support services.
  • Provision of computing resources and support.
  • Project costs.
  • A vibrant, active postgraduate student group.
  • Access to NZ$5,000 towards conference travel.


Applicants will have completed a degree with a research component or have equivalent research experience. The New Zealand / United Kingdom degree equivalent is an honours degree, or master's, in a relevant discipline. You will need to have completed these to a first class or distinction standard.

Applications will only be accepted by email to the following address:

Applications must include:

  • The PhD project for which you wish to apply
  • A copy of your CV
  • A copy of your academic transcript
  • A copy of your research dissertation or thesis
  • Written statement (300–500 words) outlining why this project interests you
  • The names of two academic referees (one of whom should be your most recent supervisor)
  • Evidence of English language ability (for non-native English speakers)

As part of the final selection procedure, prospective candidates may be asked to attend an interview (via video conference).


The University of Otago and the Department of Anatomy offer scholarships to suitably qualified students. These will normally provide a tuition fee waiver (full-time fees in 2019 are NZ$9,951 per annum) and provide a stipend of NZ$27,000 per annum for up to 36 months.

To be eligible for consideration for a scholarship, candidates will normally have completed their degree with research component, or equivalent, to the level of a New Zealand A- (GPA of 7 or above) or better.


Department of Anatomy

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