PhD position: Reaching decisions: neural mechanisms underlying learning and development of action decisions

How the targets of reaching movements are selected is being studied to understand the neural basis for decision making. The classical theoretical framework is based on accumulating perceptual information along a decision dimension until a criterion level is reached. Behavioral and neural evidence suggests, however, that the time course of perceptual information matters and that this information is continuously coupled into motor processes even after movement initiation. This is exemplified in the mouse tracking paradigm, in which the decision process unfolds while a movement is ongoing. Building on neural processing principles formalized in Dynamic Field Theory, the goal of the project is to provide an account for the dynamics of sensorimotor decision processes and for the online updating of movements.

The theoretical work will make use of dynamical systems modeling. The models are designed within a given framework (, are simulated numerically, and are embedded in simulated experimental paradigms. The work requires good conceptual understanding, while mathematical analysis and computer programming are only used to a limited extent.

The project will form the research component of doctoral studies at the Institute for Neural Computation at Ruhr University Bochum (, which is a vibrant interdisciplinary environment with a broad range of research groups. The project is part of the European Training Network REPAIRS (RE-learning Perception-Action In Rehabilitation from a Systems perspective)) ( ), which will train 15 highly-skilled PhD students in fundamental research on how individuals re-learn perception and action and in cutting-edge rehabilitation practice using a systems perspective. The project also provides ample training opportunities in transferable and networking skills.

• A MSc degree in computer science, physics, mathematics, or engineering
• Psychologists or cognitive scientists with an affinity to mathematical thinking may also qualify

Applicants must also fulfil the criteria defined by the European Commission:
• As an Early Stage Researcher, you have to be in the first four years of your research career and have not been awarded a doctoral degree at the time of recruitment.
• At the time of recruitment by the host organisation, researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of their host organisation (Germany) for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the reference date.

How to apply
Applications should include a CV, a short letter of motivation, names and contact information of two or more references, and diplomas and certificates indicating that a degree equivalent to a European Master degree has been obtained. Direct applications electronically to Selection will begin October 17 until the position is filled.

Prof. Dr. Gregor Schöner

Chair Theory of Cognitive Systems
Institute for Neural Computation NB 3/31
Faculty for Computer Science
Ruhr-Universität Bochum
44780 Bochum, Germany

tel: +49-234-322-7965
mobile: +49-170-817-5811
fax: +49-234-321-4210

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