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Spinal Cord Injury Center, Research

Open positions

PhD position in neuroimaging of lower urinary tract function

The Department of Neuro-Urology at the Spinal Cord Injury Center, University of Zürich and Balgrist University Hospital in Zürich, Switzerland, is offering a PhD positions for a highly motivated and scientifically interested PhD candidate to conduct clinical research joining neuroimaging with neuro-urology in humans. This position is embedded in an interdisciplinary research environment team of health care professionals, neuroscientists, physicists, biologists, human movement scientists, pharmacologists, and engineers. You will be involved in a nation-wide randomized, sham-controlled, double-blind clinical trial investigating transcutaneous tibial nerve stimulation in patients with acute spinal cord injury to prevent neurogenic detrusor overactivity (, supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Swiss Paraplegics Foundation (SPS).

You will be using neuroimaging techniques (structural, diffusion, and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and spinal cord) in several projects also in collaboration with internationally highly recognized centres in the field of neuro-urology. Extending ongoing and previous successful projects in the interdisciplinary team at the Balgrist University Hospital (, you will specifically work on the investigation and characterization of neural correlates in healthy subjects and different patient populations with neurogenic lower urinary tract dysfunction.

These projects are likely to have large impact in the fields of neuro-urology, neuroimaging, neurology, and neuro-rehabilitation, hopefully resulting in new clinical assessment tools and further improving medical care. You will perform MRI measurements in close collaboration with study nurses, research assistants, radiographers, and other PhD students. Together, you will be responsible for the organisation and daily conduct of the studies (at the patient bedside and in different study centers), data recording, image acquisition (MRI scanning) and analysis, the presentation of results at conferences, and the preparation of publications in internationally peer-reviewed journals.

Education / Requirements:
• Highly motivated, open-minded personality with a strong interest in clinical research, who shows extraordinary initiative and durability to cope with challenges
• Team minded, flexible, with the required tact and sensitivity for dealing with (disabled) patients
• Master’s degree or equivalent in natural sciences, pharmacology, medicine, biomedical engineering, neuroscience or related field
• Strong interest in neuroimaging techniques
• Good statistical and computer skills (R, SPSS, Matlab, Microsoft Office)
• Proficiency in English and fluent in German (additional French is a plus)
• Good communication, organisational, and motivational skills
• Experience with neuroimaging software - e.g. MATLAB, SPM, FSL, Python – is desired
• Experience with neurophysiological techniques (EEG, EMG, ECoG, or MEG) and (f)MRI is an advantage
The position is available immediately and PhD salary rates of the SNSF apply. If you are looking for an exciting PhD position in a highly motivated team, please send your application as a merged PDF file including a CV, publication list, motivation letter, and names of two references to Martina Liechti, PhD (
Address: Department of Neuro-Urology, Spinal Cord Injury Center, Balgrist University Hospital, Forchstrasse 340, 8008 Zürich

Master Thesis @ Balgrist Campus

The impact of placebo on pain-autonomic interaction

Supervision: Florin Allmendinger, PhD candidate
Michèle Hubli, group leader
Sensory Group @ Spinal Cord Injury Center, Balgrist University Hospital
Type: Master Thesis (6 months)

Description: The autonomic nervous system reacts to pain, for example by adapting the heart rate or increased sweat output at the hands. Such pain-autonomic responses have been shown to be increased in chronic pain patients with a sensitized nociceptive system (Scheuren et al., 2023). However, pain-autonomic responses can also be influenced by positive and negative expectations (Aslaksen et al., 2008; Rhudy et al., 2018). Therefore, we aim to disentangle the effects of expectations and sensitization on pain-autonomic responses. For this reason, we will conduct a study in healthy participants, using experimentally induced sensitization and a placebo paradigm.

Training: You will be involved in planning and conducting an experimental study involving healthy participants. You will learn electrophysiological techniques, such as recordings of ECG and electrodermal activity, sensory testing, statistical data analysis and interpretation.

Profile: Bachelor in Biology, Biomedicine, Health Science and Technology, Medicine. Able to communicate in German.

Beginning: Immediately
Kontakt:, Tel. +41 44 510 72 11

Literature: Aslaksen PM, Flaten MA. The roles of physiological and subjective stress in the effectiveness of a placebo on experimentally induced pain. Psychosom Med. 2008. 70: 811-8. Rhudy JL, Güereca YM, Kuhn BL, Palit S, Flaten MA. The Influence of Placebo Analgesia Manipulations on Pain Report, the Nociceptive Flexion Reflex, and Autonomic Responses to Pain. J Pain. 2018. 19: 1257-1274. Scheuren PS, De Schoenmacker I, Rosner J, Brunner F, Curt A, Hubli M. Pain-autonomic measures reveal nociceptive sensitization in complex regional pain syndrome. Eur J Pain. 2023. 27: 72-85.