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A wide range of opportunities for doctoral research are available in research groups associated with the CNP, which currently number 17 groups. The CNP has a focus on understanding the neural circuits underlying brain functions and behaviour. Research topics include sensory and motor systems, reward and metabolism, plasticity and learning, cognitive functions, social behavior, development and computational neuroscience. The groups employ a wide range of modern techniques, especially in vivo approaches, including electrophysiology, multi-photon microscopy and molecular biology and genetics. Animal models include Drosophila, mouse, rat and zebrafish.

Students are paired with individual faculty members who serve as academic mentors. At the end of the coursework period, students spend the summer rotating at those CNP labs doing research closest to their interests. This process leads to the selection of a laboratory and the writing of a thesis proposal. The lab selection process is assisted by the program direction and the academic mentor, and benefits from CNP policy promoting extensive communication of the research taking place in the different labs to the whole CNP community, by means of regular internal seminars by PhD students, postdocs and faculty members.