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Cambridge Biosciences DTP PhD Programme


Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience

Research theme: Understanding the rules of life


I grew up in Bulgaria, and in 2009 moved to the UK. After realizing that my then dream of becoming a Paediatrician will not come true, I put all my efforts into getting a science degree from a top university. As a result, I joined University College London, and in 2017 obtained my BSc Hons in Biomedical Sciences. Working on projects in the labs of Prof Jonathan Ashmore and Prof John O'Keefe exposed me to the exciting world of neuroscience. Consequently, this led to the opportunity of joining the lab of Dr Daniel Bendor where I worked as a Research Assistant for 2 years. Still highly determined to make a positive impact on society, despite not directly practicing a medical profession, I pursued a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. Motivated to diversify my experience outside academic research, I joined the Underwriters Laboratories for a 3-month internship. My project with the UL360 Sustainability Software team involved developing a forecasting and scenario modelling module to assist private sector companies in meeting their net-zero emissions targets. Like many who took up running as a hobby during the first lockdown, I was inspired to run a half marathon to raise awareness and funds for an organization that works to fight human trafficking. While on the topic of sports, I enjoy the occasional game of tennis but alas you need two players for that, and it turns out tennis is not activity the majority of my friends enjoy. Another lockdown hobby of mine is making bookmarks using watercolour paints and brush lettering - while a great way to relieve anxiety, it also makes a unique gift idea for family and friends.


Project Title: 

Combining animal and human imaging to understand inhibitory mechanisms for learning and brain plasticity

Project Summary:

The brain is unable to process all incoming visual information. GABAergic inhibition is important in shaping the activity of principal cells and filtering out irrelevant information to facilitate visual detection and discrimination. In humans, decreased GABA levels in the occipito-temporal cortex are associated with better performance of a target detection task, while increased GABA levels are associated with improved performance of a fine discrimination task. The aim of my PhD project is to investigate whether such dissociable inhibitory mechanisms are preserved across species and how distinct types of inhibitory interneurons contribute to the learning-dependent plasticity processes. After developing directly comparable visual paradigms in mice and humans, I will optogenetically activate parvalbumin-positive interneurons in the primary visual cortex of transgenic mice to examine the effects of increased inhibition on the performance of these tasks. By combining the optogenetic stimulation with two-photon calcium imaging, I will investigate changes in inhibitory circuits following visual learning.





Teaching and Supervisions

Research supervision: 

Dr Jasper Poort

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Contact Details

Job Titles

PhD Student