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Brighton & Sussex Medical School

PhD opportunities

BSMS > Postgraduate > Research degrees > PhD opportunities

PhD opportunities

All our current PhD opportunites are listed on this page. 

In order to apply, please visit the University of Brighton website by clicking the “Apply Now” link below, and select “Doctoral College” as the School, and “Medicine” as the keyword. You should then select the project that you wish to apply for. There is no need to supply your own research proposal, unless you are submitting a speculative application. 

Apply for your PHD here >

If you are applying for a specific project that is advertised below, there is no need to write a research proposal. Simply give the details provided in the advertisement in the Research Proposal section of the online application form.

If you require entry clearance to study in the UK, please see the ATAS information.

Stigma towards dementia in young people: The impact of media

Supervisors: Dr Nicolas Farina, Dr N Tabet, Dr Alys Griffiths 

Applications accepted all year round 

Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Applications are invited for a 3-year PhD studentship to join the internationally recognised Centre for Dementia Studies, Brighton and Sussex Medical School at the University of Sussex Campus. 

The aim of the project is to better understand what dementia-related media young people engage with but also interrogate the relationship between various national and international media messages about dementia (social media, ad campaigns, movies) and how they affect attitudes towards dementia. 

Combatting stigma and raising awareness towards dementia is an international policy priority. As it stands, we know that negative attitudes towards dementia already exist from a young age, and that based on existing theories, attitude change might be easier during these younger years. Young people already have experiences of dementia, despite receiving little formal education about the condition. Whilst there is a significant minority that have provided support for a family member with dementia, many have experienced dementia only through the media (i.e. movies, news) and online sources. Previous research has identified that media messages of dementia can often be negative or stigmatizing, which could be in part responsible for attitude formation. However, it is unclear how young people engage with such media content about dementia and how this ultimately shapes stigma towards dementia. Such stigma ultimately influences how individuals engage with dementia, both now and in the future, and might ultimately determine career preferences. The research builds upon an existing theme of work led by Dr’s Farina, Tabet and Griffiths. 

The project provides a wide range of training that includes quantitative, qualitative and review methodology. The project, will also provide an opportunity to work with both young people and people living with dementia. This should provide the successful candidate with critical skills and substantial experience to make them a highly competitive candidate for a postdoctoral research position within applied health research, particularly in the field of dementia.

Funding Notes

Applicants for this 3-year PhD should possess or expect to be awarded a minimum of a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in psychology, health sciences, public health, or related subject. Both UK/EU and non-EU citizens can apply. Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Nicolas Farina (n.farina@bsms.ac.uk). Please contact the Brighton and Sussex Medical School Doctoral and Research Officer (researchdegrees@bsms.ac.uk), with any other queries.

References

  1. Alzheimer’s Disease International. World Alzheimer Report 2019 : Attitudes to dementia. Read the report here. Published April 10, 2019. Accessed June 17, 2019. 
  2. Cheng TY-M, Liu L, Woo BK. Analyzing Twitter as a Platform for Alzheimer-Related Dementia Awareness: Thematic Analyses of Tweets. JMIR Aging. 2018;1(2):e11542. doi:10.2196/11542 
  3. Farina N, Hughes LJ, Griffiths AW, Parveen S. Adolescents’ experiences and perceptions of dementia. Aging Ment Health. 2019;0(0):1-7. doi:10.1080/13607863.2019.1613343 
  4. Farina N. What is taught about dementia in secondary schools? A survey of schools in Sussex, England (Innovative Practice). Dementia. July 2017:1471301217720016. doi:10.1177/1471301217720016 
  5. Isaac MG, Isaac MM, Farina N, Tabet N. Knowledge and attitudes towards dementia in adolescent students. J Ment Health. 2017;26(5):419–425. 
  6. Parveen S, Farina N, Shafiq S, Hughes LJ, Griffiths AW. What do adolescents perceive to be key features of an effective dementia education and awareness initiative? Dement Int J Soc Res Pract. 2019.
BACKGROUND IMAGE FOR PANEL

Objective and Subjective Assessment of Fatigue in Multiple Sclerosis 

Supervisors

Dr James Stone, Prof Mara Cercignani, Dr Jeanne Dekerle 

Application Deadline

Friday 7 May 2021

About the Project

Fatigue is one of the key symptoms in Multiple Sclerosis that causes significant impairment to quality of life. This project will investigate the mechanisms of neuromuscular fatigue in MS combining quantitative MRI and neurophysiological techniques. Neuromuscular fatigue can have both peripheral and central origins. The central component can be measured by delivering a single supra-threshold transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) pulse over the point of maximal voluntary force. If the stimulus leads to greater force of muscular contraction than achieved with voluntary maximal contraction, it can be inferred that brain to muscle central drive is reduced. A mild reduction in central drive has been evidenced during physical exercise in healthy volunteers. It may be present at rest with greater impairment post-exercise in individuals with MS. In this study, the student will investigate this question with the addition of fMRI technique to this framework. The aims of the project are: 1) to develop methods to measure neuromuscular fatigue both in- and out of the MRI scanner; 2) to image maximal contraction and associated brain networks in healthy controls and patients with MS; 3) to investigate effect of physical exercise on both resting state activity and motor cortex glutamate (fMRI), and muscle fatigue and central drive (TMS) in patients with MS and controls; 4) to examine the above-mentioned fMRI and TMS-based measures with subjective fatigue in both populations. The student will have the opportunity to learn key techniques for neuroscience research as well as transferrable skills. Their contribution will include study design, patient recruitment, and data analysis.  

Applicants should possess or expect to be awarded a minimum of a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in Neuroscience, Psychology Biomedical Sciences or a relevant related subject. UK and EU or non-EU citizens can apply (home fees will be paid for UK citizens; non-UK citizens will be liable for the difference in fees between the home student and the overseas student rate). Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr James Stone (j.stone@bsms.ac.uk). In order to apply please visit University of Brighton website. Please contact the BSMS Doctoral and Research Officer (researchdegrees@bsms.ac.uk) to answer any queries.

References 

  1. Krupp L. Fatigue is intrinsic to multiple sclerosis (MS) and is the most commonly reported symptom of the disease. Mult Scler. 2006 Aug;12(4):367–8.
  2. Bakshi R. Fatigue associated with multiple sclerosis: diagnosis, impact and management. Mult Scler. 2003 Jun;9(3):219–27.
  3. Alvarenga-Filho H, Papais-Alvarenga RM, Carvalho SR, Clemente HN, Vasconcelos CC, Dias RM. Does fatigue occur in MS patients without disability? Int J Neurosci. 2015 Feb;125(2):107–15.
  4. Honarmand K, Akbar N, Kou N, Feinstein A. Predicting employment status in multiple sclerosis patients: the utility of the MS functional composite. J Neurol. 2011 Sep 12;258(2):244–9.
  5. Chalah MA, Riachi N, Ahdab R, Créange A, Lefaucheur J-P, Ayache SS. Fatigue in Multiple Sclerosis: Neural Correlates and the Role of Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation. Front Cell Neurosci. 2015 Jan;9:460.
  6. Carroll TJ, Taylor JL, Gandevia SC. Recovery of central and peripheral neuromuscular fatigue after exercise. J Appl Physiol 2017 122: 1068–1076
  7. Davranche K, Temesi J, Verges S, Hasbroucq T. Transcranial magnetic stimulation probes the excitability of the primary motor cortex: A framework to account for the facilitating effects of acute whole-body exercise on motor processes. J Sport Health Sci 2015, 4: 24-29
  8. Micklewright D, St Clair Gibson A, Gladwell V, Al Salman A. Development and Validity of the Rating-of-Fatigue Scale. Sports Med. 2017 Nov;47(11):2375-2393.
  9. Borg G. Borg’s Perceived Exertion and Pain Scales. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 1998. 
BACKGROUND IMAGE FOR PANEL

Using functional MRI neurofeedback to modulate self-blame in major depressive disorder

Supervisors

Dr James Stone, Dr Alessandro Colasanti, Dr Roland Zahn

Application Deadline

Friday 7 May 2021

About the Project

Low self-worth has been identified as a core symptom of depression (Zahn et al., 2015) and prospectively predicts risk of relapse at a group level. It has been shown to be present at least a year prior to the onset of a depressive episode (Ormel et al. 2004), and, as such, is a prime target for prevention of depression recurrence. Cognitive models of depression explain low self-worth as a result of overgeneral self-blame resulting in distortions in the individual's concept of self (Abramson et al., 1978). We have identified a brain network associated with overgeneral self-blame in patients recovered from depression and shown that remitted MDD patients undergoing one session of active MRI neurofeedback were able to modulate this network compared with a control intervention group, and that this correlated with improvements in self-esteem (Zahn et al 2019). This project will build on our earlier work and will seek to develop a machine learning approach to identify brain networks associated with self-blame. The identified networks will then be used as a target for fMRI neurofeedback in patients with recovered depression. The project will be in two parts: 1) The student will analyse fMRI imaging data of a self-blame task (Lythe et al. JAMA Psych 2015; n=64 remitted MDD, n=50 healthy controls) and will develop an SVM-based fMRI signature of MDD recurrence risk in response to self-blaming thoughts. 2) This signature will then be used as a neurofeedback target in a trial of patients with partially recovered depression to test the hypothesis that neurofeedback training will lead to improvements in self-esteem. Briefly, this intervention will involve participants viewing a vertical scale during an fMRI task of self-blaming thoughts. The vertical scale will increase the closer they get to the target brain network (which will either be the SVM network, or a control - pretreatment network). The primary outcome will be improvement in self-esteem as measured by the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. The student will have the opportunity to learn key techniques for neuroscience research as well as transferrable skills. Their contribution will include study design, patient recruitment, and data analysis. 

Funding Notes

Applicants should possess or expect to be awarded a minimum of a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in Neuroscience, Psychology, Biomedical Science or a relevant related subject. UK/EU and non-EU citizens can apply (home fees will be paid for UK citizens; non-UK/EU citizens will be liable for the difference in fees between the rate for home students and the overseas student rate. Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr James Stone (j.stone@bsms.ac.uk). In order to apply please visit University of Brighton website. Please contact the BSMS Doctoral and Research Officer (researchdegrees@bsms.ac.uk) to answer any queries.
 
References

  1. Green S, Lambon Ralph MA, Moll J, Deakin JF, Zahn R. Guilt-selective functional disconnection of anterior temporal and subgenual cortices in major depressive disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2012 Oct;69(10):1014-21.
  2. Zahn R, Weingartner JH, Basilio R, Bado P, Mattos P, Sato JR, de Oliveira-Souza R, Fontenelle LF, Young AH, Moll J. Blame-rebalance fMRI neurofeedback in major depressive disorder: A randomised proof-of-concept trial. Neuroimage Clin. 2019;24:101992.
BACKGROUND IMAGE FOR PANEL

Determinants of dementia attitudes in young people 

Supervisors

Dr Nicolas Farina, Dr Naji Tabet 

Application Deadline

Friday 28 May 2021 

About the Project

Applications are invited for a 3-year PhD studentship to join the internationally recognised Centre for Dementia Studies, Brighton and Sussex Medical School at the University of Sussex Campus. The studentship is funded by the Alzheimer’s Society.  

Dementia-related stigma can lead to people with dementia not accessing the support and care that they need, whilst also resulting in them to become isolated from family members and the wider community. Many young people have already had some form of experience of dementia within their family or wider community, though we know that stigmatising attitudes already exist in this group. A focus on young people is particularly important because they will become our future policy makers, healthcare professionals and carers of the future. Before we can develop an effective anti-stigma intervention we need to better understand what are the drivers and facilitators of dementia-related stigma in young people.   

This PhD studentship will explore what factors are associated with dementia attitudes at a young age (≤18 years old), whether this is related to personal experience, media messages, or tied with non-modifiable factors. This will be achieved through systematically reviewing existing evidence, secondary data analysis of cohort data, and the set-up of a novel longitudinal study of stigma in young people.   

The knowledge gained will help researchers, educators and advocates to better understand how and why stigmatising attitudes towards dementia form, which would allow for evidence based interventions to be developed. Young people and people with dementia (and carers) will be consulted to optimise the study design and dissemination strategies.  

The successful student will develop skills in psychology, with a particular emphasis in quantitative research methods and review methodology. The project, will also provide an opportunity to work with both young people and people living with dementia. Ultimately, this PhD will provide the successful student with the critical skills and experience to make them a highly competitive candidate for a postdoctoral research position.  

Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Nicolas Farina (n.farina@bsms.ac.uk). Please contact the Brighton and Sussex Medical School Doctoral and Research Officer (researchdegrees@bsms.ac.uk), with any other queries. Applications should be made through the University of Brighton portal which can be access via the Brighton and Sussex Medical School PhD opportunities webpage.  

Brighton and Sussex Medical School is fully committed to ensuring that the curriculum and values are inclusive and justice oriented, and that students, staff and broader community feel welcome and respected  (www.bsms.ac.uk/inclusivity).   

Funding Notes

Max 100 words (see example below): 

Applicants for this 3-year PhD should possess or expect to be awarded a minimum of a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in psychology, sociology, health sciences, public health, education or related subject. Both UK/EU and non-EU citizens can apply (home fees will be paid for UK citizens; non-UK citizens will be liable for the difference in fees between the rate for home students and the overseas student rate).  

Wellcome clinical PhD programme in Global Health Research

Open for applications from 18 September 2020 

The Wellcome Clinical PhD Programme in Global Health Research is a partnership between the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London, King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London, St George’s University of London and Brighton and Sussex Medical School bringing together their expertise in global health research. The Programme provides postgraduate training opportunities to clinicians committed to undertaking research on the health problems of low and middle income countries.

The Programme will support up to four clinical PhD fellowships in 2021.

The aim of the Programme is to support the most promising clinicians who wish to undertake rigorous research training and complete a research project in the field of global health.

The Programme will focus on the following six key areas:

  • HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria
  • Neglected tropical diseases
  • Maternal and child health
  • Mental health
  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Non-communicable diseases.

The Programme has a large pool of potential-supervisors who have a breadth of clinical specialities and experience in these areas.

Successful applicants will develop their potential to become academic clinicians within a structured and mentored training environment. They will, usually, spend up to two years overseas in a low or middle income country based in well-established research groups.

Financial support is for three years and includes a clinical salary, research expenses, general training funds and travel costs.

Applicants must be fully-qualified medical doctors (with no more than 10 years’ whole time equivalent [WTE] career experience after full medical qualification at the time of applying), have a right to work in the UK, be eligible for home/EU PhD fees and should be currently engaged in a specialist training programme and not yet awarded a CCT or equivalent. They must demonstrate academic excellence and a commitment to pursuing a career as an academic clinician with an interest in global health.

Find out more about the programme and how to apply >

PhD studentships now recruited

  • Substance use in relation to the mental and sexual heath of vulnerable adolescents and young adults under 25 in coastal areas of Kent and Sussex 
  • The mental health and wellbeing needs of looked after and displaced children in southeast England 
  • Helping young people to live successfully with long-term health issues
  • Resourcing Resilience: Positive psychology among adolescents living with HIV 
  • Widening access to psychological interventions for diverse communities: exploring the potential of community-led interventions 
  • Co-producing stigma-proof mental health interventions with and for newcomers (asylum seekers, refugees and migrants) in southeast England 
  • Defining Mycobacterium tuberculosis in lung tissue – a novel discovery platform for new vaccine and drug targets
  • Epidemiology of cancer in the elderly (aged > 65 years) in England
  • The roles of oxidative stress and redox regulation in chronic inflammatory disease (Supervisors: Dr Lisa Mullen, Prof Pietro Ghezzi, Prof Kevin Davies)
  • Pillars of Expertise: Visual Perception & Memory (Supervisors: Dr Natasha Sigala, Prof Mara Cercignani
  • Investigating the genetic basis of osteosarcoma in children & dogs (Supervisors: Prof Sarah Newbury, Dr Peter Bush, Dr Chris Jones)
  • The embodiment of unconscious knowledge in maladaptive behaviour (Supervisors: Prof Hugo Critchley, Dr Sarah Garfinkel, Prof Dora Duka)
  • Can simulation clarify diagnostic skills for newly qualified doctors? (Supervisors: Dr Inam Haq, Dr Wesley Scott-Smith)
  • Impact of oxytocin on emotional regulation in binge drinking and alcoholism: behavioural, physiological and fMRI investigations (Supervisors: Prof Hugo Critchley, Prof Dora Duka)
  • Developing an algorithm for predicting children with severe asthma (Supervisors: Prof Somnath Mukhopadhyay, Dr Katy Fidler)
  • Development of a refined model of neuropathic pain: a model without frank nerve injury (Supervisors: Dr Andrew Dilley, Prof Pietro Ghezzi)
  • Role of secreted oxidoreductases in osteoarthritis, rheumathoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (Supervisors: Prof Pietro Ghezzi, Dr Manuela Mengozzi)
  • Measuring quality of life in severe dementia: validation of DEMQOL-Proxy in family and professional carers of people with severe dementia (Prof Sube Banerjee, Dr Naji Tabet)
  • Stigma in health care: Does it influence the way general practitioners record consultations? (Supervisors: Dr Elizabeth Ford, Prof Helen Smith, Prof Flis Henwood)
  • Interoception and preventative intervention for anxiety in adults with autism (supervisors: Dr Sarah Garfinkel, Prof Hugo Critchley)