PhD and postdoc opportunities

General considerations

I generally take PhD students only after an internship at the lab, either within a Master program or on a more ad-hoc basis. PhD projects are submitted to the Doctoral School as early as March for the next Fall.

My team is affiliated with Ecole des Neurosciences de Paris, which can provide internship and PhD funding to students coming from abroad.

Besides specific postdoctoral funding for certain projects, external funding can be applied for, once a specific project has been defined with an applicant. Various sources include Fyssen Foundation (deadline: March 31st yearly), Neuropole, Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale, European Commission, Human Frontier Science Program, or CNRS. Applicants with strong computational, image processing or statistical background are particularly welcome.

Training opportunities

I supervise student projects in 4th (M1) and 5th year (M2). Considering my current projects, the priority profile is a background in biology/medicine, or engineering/ computer science.

For Master (M2) projects, it is best to contact me as soon as March or April for the next Fall. M1 projects can be organised on shorter notice. In all cases, applicants should send me a CV and a letter by email.

Internships are available on the following topics (although I'm open to everything that meets my scientific interests):

Big data analyses of educational achievement

Many important questions in education require analysing large and complex datasets including measures of environmental factors, cognitive skills, and educational achievement. We have access to several such datasets:The Eden cohort (N=400 to 1400), the DEPP 2007 panel (N=35 000), as well as more recent data from the  national evaluations in 1st and 2nd grade (N=800 000). Projects may bear on the following questions, among others:

  • What are the early predictors of reading and math ability? to what extent are they mediated by early cognitive skills? to what extent do they differ between boys and girls?
  • What are the effects of grade repetition on subsequent achievement? In a context where repetition generally has a mean negative effect, can one identify criteria that may allow one to identify those students who are most likely to benefit from repetition? 
  • What are the early 1st grade predictors of subsequent reading acquisition?

Student profile: data science, statistics, econometrics.

Neuroanatomy of developmental dyslexia

My team has collected high-quality structural brain images of various types, in dyslexic and control participants, both children and adults. We also have access to similar images collected in other countries (Poland, Germany, China), thus constituting a massive dataset (N=250 for T1 images). Some analyses of these images have already been carried out (see Genedys project), but much more remains to be done. Amongst the possibilities:

  • Analysing the surface area of auditory cortex (Heschl's gyrus and planum temporale) in the brains of dyslexic and control adults (in the manner of Altarelli et al. 2014). Then linking these structural characteristics with auditory responses collected using MEG (see below), and with auditory abilities.
  • Analysing global brain asymetries (brain torque), compared between dyslexic and control children.
  • Another possible project would be to exploit the diffusion images acquired on adult participants (dyslexics and controls) at the 7T MRI. 

Student profile: engineering/computer science, or biology/medicine with good computing skills.

Epidemiological study of cognitive development

The Eden cohort has been following 2000 children since birth until 11-12 years of age. We have been conducting this last wave of data collection, using tests assessing general cognitive abilities, literacy and numeracy skills and their cognitive precursors, and questionnaires assessing psychopathology. Data analysis can bear on any of the following questions:

  • Psychological disorders. To what extent are cognitive deficits the cause, and to what extent are they the consequence of psychological disorders in young adolescents? What are the early determinants of psychological disorders? To what extent are they mediated by early cognitive deficits?
  • Academic achievement. What early environmental factors have an effect on later academic achievement? To what extent are they mediated by early cognitive abilities? To what extent do literacy and numeracy abilities covary? To what extent is this explained by general intelligence, and to what extent by more specific cognitive factors?
  • Sex differences in cognitive abilities. In what academic areas, cognitive abilities and psychological symptoms are there sex differences? What is the developmental trajectory of these differences? To what extent can they be explained by sex differences in the measured environmental factors? To what extent do the effects of environmental factors differ between the sexes (sex-factor interactions)?

Student profile: good statistical skills.

Analysis of the prescription of psychotropic drugs as a function of the availability of trained psychotherapists

This project involves testing the hypothesis that the prescription of psychotropic drugs in a given French region is inversely proportional to the number of psychotherapists trained in cognitive-behavioral therapies in that region (per inhabitant). It will rely on the publicly available prescription databases from Assurance-maladie and on directories of clinicians registered with the various schools of psychotherapy.

Student profile: good statistical skills. This project would be more appropriate for a master program in public health or economics than in cognitive science.

Sex differences and gender stereotypes

I'm generally interested in sex differences and their origins. One possible project is to investigate sex differences in brain anatomy, using large available databases of brain images. Another one would be to investigate sex differences in cognitive skills, either experimentally or using large available databases.

Other possible projects could bear on the effects of gender stereotypes on cognitive processing (starting with replicating well-known effects). This would be appropriate for an M1 project.

I am also interested in the determinants of sexual orientation, and although I have no specific project to propose, I'm open to suggestions.

Bibliographic projects (typically for Cogmaster M1)

Analysis of the differences between French and English wikipedia pages on psychology and psychiatry (theoretical project; a third language would be interesting as well).

The "gift of dyslexia": It is often said that individuals with dyslexia benefit some cognitive advantages (spatial skills, creativity...). To what extent is this supported by published experimental studies, and to what extent is this a myth?