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PhD in Behavioral Neuroimaging

Region Syddanmark

A three-year PhD fellowship is available in the research group of Mikael Palner at the Department of Nuclearmedicine, Odense University Hospital and Department of Clinical Research, University of Southern Denmark, starting on the August 1st 2021 or soon thereafter. The project is funded via a Sapere Aude – starting grant from the Independent Research Fund Denmark to Mikael Palner.

The PhD project will investigate the underlying neuronal dysfunctions that lead to compulsive behavior in animals. In particular, we will use chemogenetics to selectively activate cortical inputs to the striatum, creating an animal model of cortical hyperactivity. Clinical studies show that the functional connectivity between cortical and striatal brain regions is hyperactive in patients with obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) and that such changes can lead to compulsive behaviors in animals.

We will then investigate how activation of these inputs alters whole brain functional connectivity, using [18F]FDG PET imaging, compulsive behavior, especially in the reversal learning and stop signal behavioral paragdigms, and the effectiveness of a novel serotonergic drug treatment. More than 40% of patients with OCD are resistant to current pharmacological treatment. Untreated OCD is highly disabling for the individual. This project has high clinical translational value and the potential to redefine our understanding and treatment of OCD, which will ultimately benefit patients.

Perspective on the research can be found in the Danish documentary “DR2 på syretrip med Peter Lund Madsen

For further information please contact Mikael Palner, e-mail:

Key Responsibilities

  • Development of rodent chemogenetic animal models
  • Execution of rodent behavioral and neuroimaging studies
  • Behavioral and imaging data analysis
  • Report results at conferences and in international journals
  • Write publications
  • Supervise BSc and MSc projects
  • Teaching


  • Master’s degree in neuroscience, biology, biomedicine, pharmacology, or another related discipline
  • Organized and detail-oriented
  • Ambitious
  • Laboratory experience
  • Excellent English
  • Good social and collaboration skills

Experience with the following will be an advantage

  • FELASA, ABD certified
  • Chemo- or opto-genetics
  • Rodent surgery, especially intracranial injections of viral vectors
  • Small animal handling and behavioral assessment in animals
  • In vitro imaging, immunohistochemical assays, autoradiography, fluorescence microscopy
  • In vivo imaging, PET, SPECT or MR, and 3D image analysis

Research environment
The group of Mikael Palner is a newly established research group at the University of Southern Denmark - Department of Clinical Research and Odense University Hospital – Department of Nuclear Medicine.

We focus on whole-brain functional connectivity and behavioral characterization of neuronal circuits, at baseline and following selective modulation. Our goal is to understand the generation of compulsive actions, which are characteristic in people with OCD and the biological mechanisms mediated by serotonergic agonists as novel treatment options, i.e. psilocybin - a serotonergic hallucinogen derived from mushrooms. This includes several aspects of in vivo neuroscience: viral transductions, chemogenetics, behavioral neuroscience, biochemistry, pharmacology, and in vivo neuroimaging. We offer a great environment, scientificly and socially, with close collaboration with other neuroscience groups on campus, the nuclear medicine department at Odense University Hospital as well as groups in Copenhagen and neuroscience companies. We provide great guidance and knowledge of in vivo imaging and behavioral assessment using operant touch screen boxes.

The University of Southern Denmark (SDU) is a young and internationally recognized research and educational institution in Denmark whichranks as one of the Top 50 young universities in the world. As a fast-growing young university, SDU now has five faculties and over 30,000 students, more than 15% of whom come from abroad. More than 1,200 researchers are divided into five faculties, 32 departments, and 11 research centers.

PhD Fellowship
Appointment as a PhD Research Fellow is for three years. Employment stops automatically at the end of the period. The holder of the scholarship is not allowed to have other paid employment during the three-year period. The successful applicant will be employed by the agreement on salaried PhD scholars between the Ministry of Finance and AC (the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations). Please check the links for more information on salary and taxation. The successful candidate will be enrolled at SDU Faculty of Health Sciences following faculty regulations and the Danish Ministerial Order on the PhD Program at the Universities (PhD order). Mikael Palner will be the main supervisor of the project.

Further information about the PhD-program at the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Applications – including the required attachments – must be sent via the link : https://www.sdu.dk/en/service/ledige_stillinger/1148668

The attached files must be in Adobe PDF or Word format. Each box can only contain a single file of max. 10 Mb. We strongly recommend that you read how to apply before you apply.

Applications must include

  • A letter stating your specific interest, motivation, and qualifications for the project in question
  • A detailed CV, including personal contact information
  • Copies of diplomas, Bachelor as well as Master’s degree, including transcript of notes/grades if appropriate.
  • Reference letter(s).

Incomplete applications and applications received after the deadline will neither be considered nor evaluated. This also applies to reference letters.

Closing date: 30th of May 2021
Successful candidates will be asked to send an application to the PhD Secretariat, Faculty of Health Sciences, to be enrolled as PhD students.

The University wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background.

Shortlisting may be used in the assessment process.

Further information for international applicants about entering and working in Denmark.

Location: OUH / SDU

Application deadline: 30 May 2021

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Ansøgningsfrist d. 30.05.2021
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