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The brain consists of billions of interconnected neurons. The objective of the master's track Physiology of Synapses and Networks (PSN) is to understand how these neurons are organised and function in the network and how they influence our behaviour. During the programme, you will meet the new challenges in neuroscience in a unique interdisciplinary training environment at the interface between cellular, network and behavioural neuroscience.

In the PSN master's track, we provide an overview of the fundamental principles of cellular neurophysiology, synaptic communication and synaptic plasticity, and explain how these processes control network activity, memory formation and behaviour. We discuss how modulators of synaptic plasticity, like noradrenalin, dopamine or endocannabinoids, influence network activity and memory formation. Several pathological conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy will be explored. For instance, we will look into how synapses become dysfunctional due to accumulation of amyloid-beta, the prime suspect to cause Alzheimer’s disease, and can subsequently induce memory problems. Moreover, cellular and network mechanisms of the endocannabinoid system will be explored.

Programme outline

The first course Neurophysiology (6 EC) will introduce you to the advanced biophysical, cellular and molecular aspects of neuron and synapse physiology.

The second course From synapse to network (6 EC) will highlight how synaptic plasticity processes, that take place during learning, modify neuronal network function. Analysis methods for neurophysiological and imaging data will be studied in a practical module using Matlab.

The third course From network to behavior (6 EC) covers how changes in network activity lead to memory formation and behavioural adaptation, and will broaden your knowledge of neuroanatomy by hands-on human brain dissections.

During the courses of the PSN track, a combination of educational techniques will be used: lectures, journal clubs, tutorials, project writing, presentations and hands-on laboratories. The topics are taught by experts from the University of Amsterdam, supported by guest lectures from national and international renowned scientists. State-of-the-art neurophysiological and optical methods like patch clamping, confocal imaging, optogenetics, voltage-sensitive dye imaging and their applications will be demonstrated. Based on the knowledge obtained in these three courses you will have the opportunity to write your own grant proposal to become accustomed with applying for funding.

Internships & thesis

After the core courses in the first 3 months, you will have the opportunity to take part in two research projects, in the Netherlands or abroad. Students who have been enrolled in the PSN program have for instance performed their internships at the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and at the Salk Institute (California). Moreover, you will write a literature review. Students can also follow extra courses at the University of Amsterdam or other universities. At the end of the year, a master student symposium will be organised and students will present their results obtained during their internships and discuss with colleagues and supervisors.

It is possible to combine this Master's programme with a minor or major, or additional courses (at the University of Amsterdam or other universities).

Job prospects

After graduation, a lot of our alumni start their career as a PhD student in a scientific lab. As we try to integrate as much as possible employability skills like problem solving and creative thinking, our graduates also fit perfectly in jobs outside academia, for example as a research associate, research consultant, software engineer or a design engineer.