Measuring cognitive flexibility in rodents

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

Cognitive dysfunction is prominent in the elderly and many patients with neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases, yet current treatments have little effect on these symptoms. We need better treatments, but this requires better testing protocols. One of the key reasons we have not been able to develop medications to treat these symptoms is that new ideas are typically first tested in rats and mice. However, using the tests we currently have available has led to expensive clinical trials for drugs that appeared to work in rodents, but then were not effective in people. This project aims to improve translational research between animal models and people with cognitive symptoms. We have recently designed a novel cognitive flexibility task to investigate similarities shared with human cognitive tests by looking at performance deficits in rodents that reflect physiological changes that have been observed in patients. In this project we will evaluate pharmacological agents that improve cognitive performance in rats and in mice. We will evaluate compounds that are currently used in people with schizophrenia to establish their effect on cognitive performance in rodents. We will also use the cognitive flexibility task to screen novel compounds that may be candidates for future research.

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Professor Thomas Burne

Queensland Brain Institute


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of behavioural neuroscience, in particular operant testing in rodents would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of neuroscience and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of animal handling experience is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2025. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process