The Institute of Neuroscience of the University of Barcelona is the Unit of Excellence María de Maeztu with more incoming INPhINIT fellowships “la Caixa”

A total of three PhD students were awarded the prestigious INPhINIT doctoral fellowship in order to carry out their exciting research projects at the Institute of Neurosciences of the University of Barcelona. The Institute has been awarded a total of three of the 35 incoming INPhINIT grants, making the Institute the María de Maeztu Unit with the most INPhINIT fellowships in Spain and Portugal.

The awardees are:

Marta Silva who will be joining the Dynamics Of Memory Formation group under the supervision of Lluis Fuentemilla, to research autobiographical memories.

Marta is a biomedical and biophysics engineer with the dream of pursuing a professional path in cognitive neuroscience. She wishes to have a positive impact on society by expanding our knowledge of the brain and get one step closer to a full understanding of how our mind works. In her PhD project, she aims to explore the neural mechanisms underlying the formation of real-life memories with the use of new naturalistic experimental designs and data-driven computational approaches. The field of memory is extremely relevant for society since we are presently facing an increasingly aging population and with that an increase in a number of memory pathologies to which we are getting more susceptible to. Understanding how memories are composed and structured in real life is then fundamental to truly comprehend how these impairments unfold and for the development of health-oriented technology or therapeutic strategies that are able to treat the vast number of existing memory problems. 

Paula Lopez who will be joining the Learning From Reward group under the supervision of Josep Marco Pallarès to research studying human motivation

Paula has previously worked with drug-addict patients at the Center for Neurobehavioral Research at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston. There, she discovered a need for addressing negative depressive symptoms that hinder the efficacy of treatment. Over the past five years, she has focused her research on measuring motivational dysfunction, anhedonia, and reward functioning in both healthy and cocaine dependent adults.  Her thesis research will focus on elucidating the role of dopamine and identifying oscillatory mechanisms related to effort-based decision-making in healthy adults, with the hope of expanding this research to clinical populations.

Ruben Perellón who will be joining the Barcelona Brain Stimulation Lab group under the supervision of David Bartrés-Faz, to research human biology.

Ruben’s academic career followed a rather unconventional path that has taken him from philosophy through cognitive science and into neuroscience and scientific computing. He worked at the Department of Neurology of the University Medical Center Ljubljana in Slovenia.  It was in that clinical setting that he discovered the meaningful and direct impact that research can have on the well-being of others. This health-related aspect became his motivation to focus his research on brain plasticity mechanisms underlying non-invasive stimulation therapy in disorders such as treatment resistant depression. From this research, he learned a valuable lesson: we do not really understand how and why plasticity induction methods are capable of producing a clinical benefit. Therefore, this has become his research topic of interest. 

What is the doctoral fellowship programme INPhINIT “la Caixa”?

The doctoral fellowship programme INPhINIT “la Caixa” is devoted to attracting talented Early Stage Researchers—of any nationality—who wish to pursue doctoral studies in Spanish or Portuguese territory. To have access to the incoming modality of this fellowship,  research centres need to be accredited with the Spanish Seal of Excellence Severo Ochoa, María de Maeztu or Health Institute Carlos III and Portuguese units accredited as “excellent” or “exceptional” according to the evaluation of the Fundação de Ciência e Tecnologia. 

The scholars of this 2018 call have been selected among 730 candidates. There are 10 men and 10 women from 11 different provinces, with an average age of 25.9 years, who will complete their doctorates in 16 universities and research centers in Spain or Portugal.

These scholarships have a maximum duration of three years and their financial endowment is 115,500 euros. They also offer, among other benefits, a face-to-face training program in transversal skills during the course of the scholarship.