My PhD @ University of Bern

Find out what I did during my PhD!

Start: 01. May 2018
End: 31. March 2023
Department: Physiology
PI: Dr. Thomas Nevian

Sandoval Ortega R.A., Renard M., Cohen M.X., Nevian T. Interactive Effects of Pain and Arousal State on Heart Rate and Cortical Activity in the Mouse Anterior Cingulate and Somatosensory Cortices. In revision in the Journal of Neurobiology of Pain.
Sandoval Ortega R.A., Renard M., Cohen M.X., Nevian T. Chronic Pain Induces Transient Sleep Disturbances and Long-Lasting Changes in Neural Dynamics in Mice. In preparation.

During my PhD at the University of Bern I studied the interaction between sleep and pain.
I divided my project in two sub-projects that aimed at investigating the following two questions:
  1) How is pain processed in the ACC and S1 during wakefulness and sleep?
  2) How does chronic pain affect ACC and S1 in wake and in sleep?

I chronically implanted mice in the ACC and S1 of both hemispheres. Additionally, these mice had 2 EEG screws (frontal and parietal), 2 EMG on the neck and an ECG.
During the recordings sessions, I performed mechanical stimuli to the hind paws of the animals to tackle Question #1. Stimuli would fall within the different arousal states as the mice would oscillate throughout their natural sleep-wake cycle.
Mice also underwent sleep sessions. During these sessions animals were undisturbed while their neural and physiological activity was being recorded for ~7h.

From these experiments I collected broad-band data and analyzed the low-pass filtered data, or Local Field Recordings (LFP).
My choice of LFP analysis over spikes is based on the potential of the LFP to be translated across species given that oscillations are conserved across mammals (Buzsaki et al., 2013).
The analysis I used were:
 - Behavioral Quantification
 - Evoked Potentials
 - Spectro-Temporal Dynamics
 - Phase synchrony
 - Scale-free Properties
 - Heart rate - brain activity correlations

My contribution to the lab
In the lab I pioneered in vivo electrophysiological recordings and the associated analysis (in Python).
The following is a non-exhaustive list of my contributions:
 -  Established in vivo electrophysiological recordings in the lab.
 - Built a collaboration with Dr. Mike X Cohen (More info here).
 - Designed and built 2 in vivo electrophysiology recording rigs.
 - Wrote Python scripts for:
  * GUI for manual sleep scoring
  * GUI for defining limits of the mechanical stimuli
  * Data analysis pipeline
 - Developed the protocols for:
  * Assembly of implants
  * Surgeries for intracranial implantations and ECG
  * Experiments
 - Mentored a master student
   Margot Renard, current PhD student at University of Lausanne.
 - Tutor of medicine students in Problem Based Learning sessions.

Grants and Awards
2022. Doc.Mobility grant of the University of Bern.
2022. Travel Fellowship from the Swiss Society for Neuroscience.
2022. Travel Aid from the Graduate School of Cellular and Biological Sciences.
2022. Promotion Fund from the University of Bern. - ySSN -
2021. FENS IBRO-PERC Travel Grant.
2021. Promotion Fund from the University of Bern. - PhD & Postdoc retreat -
2020. IBRO-PERC Travel Grant.
2020. Promotion Fund from the University of Bern. - NBM  & ySSN-
2019. Promotion Fund from the University of Bern - NMB -

NMB, Neuro Meetups Bern
ySSN, young Swiss Society for Neuroscience

See full list of grants and awards here.

My contribution to the scientific community in Switzerland
Besides the scholarly output, I contributed to the scientific community by providing opportunities to scientists to share their research and connect.
Neuro Meetups Bern
Founder & President
I created and lead this association to provide monthly seminars to the Neuroscience community in Bern.
young Swiss Society for Neuroscience
HR manager (6 months) --> President (2 years) --> Treasurer (1 year)
In this association, I promoted and supported the organization of national events for Neuroscientists in Switzerland.
Pint of Science
City coordinator (1 year) --> Treasurer (1 year)
I lead a group of scientist to bring the Pint of Science festival for the first time in Bern.
 - PhD and Postdoc representative of the Dept. of Phsyiology (2 years)
 - Main organizer of the second PhD and Postdoc retreat of the Dept. of Physiology