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Characterise the Role of The Neurokinin 3 Receptor in the Pathophysiology of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Project summary

St Lucia
Research area
Biological sciences, Biomedical and clinical sciences

Project description

Disruption of the activity of the interneurons, cells that are fundamental for neuronal circuit function, is thought to underlie the emergence of devastating symptoms that characterise Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Yet, the molecular mechanisms which control interneuron electrical activity in ASD are still largely unknown. The proposed PhD project will focus on the Neurokinin 3 receptor (NK3R), we discovered as a key regulator of interneuron development. Our data indicates that specific modulation of NK3R activity during brain maturation considerably alters adult function and triggers ASD-like symptoms in wild-type mice. We show that the pattern of NK3R expression is significantly changed in ASD, in the prefrontal cortex, a brain structure linked to the core symptoms. We discovered that specific regulation of the NK3R activity restores normal brain function and behaviour in ASD models.

This PhD project will further investigate the potential of NK3R and related pathway as a new target for the treatment of ASD symptoms. It will combine electrophysiology, imaging, genetics and molecular biology to precisely characterise how the NK3R activity in cortical interneurons underlies brain function and behaviour. By uncovering the underlying cellular and molecular substrates of neuronal dysfunction causing later behavioural deficits, this research will open new perspectives for identification and use of neurobiological targets amenable to therapy.

Research environment

The project will be conducted at the Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland.

The QBI provides exceptional environment for conducting this research proposal. The required equipment and expertise to conduct the experiments is available locally at QBI, including the Biomolecular Research Facility, Imaging Facility with state-of-the-art microscopes, rigs for electrophysiology, and behavioural apparatus.


This is an Earmarked scholarship project that aligns with a recently awarded Australian Government grant.

The scholarship includes:

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • your tuition fees covered
  • single overseas student health cover (OSHC).

Learn more about the Earmarked scholarship.


You must contact the principal supervisor for this project to discuss your interest. You should only complete the online application after you have reached agreement on supervision.

Always make sure you are approaching your potential supervisor in a professional way. We have provided some guidelines for you on how to contact a supervisor.

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 neuroscience, genetics, pharmacology, and/or molecular biology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of cellular and/or molecular biology is highly desirable.

How to apply

This project requires candidates to commence no later than Research Quarter 2, 2025. To allow time for your application to be processed, we recommend applying no later than 31 December, 2024 30 September, 2024.

You can start in an earlier research quarter. See application dates.

Before you apply

  1. Check your eligibility for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).
  2. Prepare your documentation.
  3. Contact Dr Nathalie Dehorter ( to discuss your interest and suitability.

When you apply

You apply for this scholarship when you submit an application for a PhD. You don’t need to submit a separate scholarship application.

In your application ensure that under the ‘Scholarships and collaborative study’ section you select:

  • My higher degree is not collaborative
  • I am applying for, or have been awarded a scholarship or sponsorship
  • UQ Earmarked Scholarship type.

Apply now