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4 year : Fully funded Medical Research Council Industry CASE PhD Studentship - iTALKbetter: an interactive tablet-based application to help aphasic patients speak again

   Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience

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  Dr J Crinion  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

We are seeking a full-time PhD student with a strong interest in psychology and computer science.

Start: from Sept 26th 2016, academic year : 2016/17.

iTALKbetter: an interactive tablet-based application to help aphasic patients speak again.

The aim of this PhD project is for a student to develop our UCL developed interactive, speech rehabilitation application iTALKbetter jointly with our industry partner SoftV from current proof-of-concept to a deployable treatment software App for these patients to improve their spoken language function.


iTALKbetter is a speech therapy App for mobile devices that will improve aphasic patients language and communication function. A speech problem in "finding the right words" (anomia) is the hallmark of aphasia. Currently there are no digital treatments for aphasia that provide feedback on speech performance. Feedback is critical for word learning.


This will be an excellent opportunity for the right candidate to gain valuable experience in an exciting project that intersects voice signal processing, computer science, clinical neuroscience and medical entrepreneurship. The current VR prototype software programme uses the freely available Sphinx recogniser, not for speech recognition but for speech verification. The software (a mobile App) will have three key components: diagnosis, naming therapy and outcome measurement. A key USP is the development of voice recognition (VR) software within a game format that learns from and interacts with aphasic patient’s speech and supports personalisation of the therapy game according to patient’s progress.


Four supervisors have committed considerable time for the proposed project and student’s PhD training.

The UCL academic supervisors (Dr Jennifer Crinion, Professor Alexander Leff) are from two departments (Psychology and Language Sciences and Institute of Neurology), both lead the Neurotherapeutics Group at the ICN and work clinically at UCLH. See:

The SOFTV industry supervisors ( Ian Shaw and Professor William Latham see : offer extensive, successful experience in product gamification, interactive software development and design. They have a number of successful products, games and projects with global leading companies- Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Universal Studios and academic institutes including, Imperial College London. They will offer the student considerable training opportunities and support from their games development lab, along with the ability to work alongside other full-time programmers with excellent mathematical skills and extensive experience in the design of Apps.

SKILLS to be used / developed during PhD project:
• Phonetics – the project is centered on collecting and analyzing phonetic data (speech), and correlating with patient conditions
• Utilizing Games / Gamification / Crowd Sourcing methods to engage players/aphasic patients and collect data at scale
• Software development - programming in C#/Unity
• Organise, collect and analyse Big Data –using large scale capture and scientific analysis
• Establish Cloud Architecture – developing Client Phone/Tablet + Server side processing
• Machine Learning methodology for automated analysis to discover patterns in data
• Analyzing patients’ behavioural data and drawing correlations between experimental data and theoretical psychology models of learning and stroke recovery.
• Assist with Audio Signal Processing – frequency based analysis of speech, using available maths libraries


BSc/ MSc in Engineering, Computer Science, Maths or related discipline
• Interest in audio/phonetics,
• Proven ability to develop software (one of Java or C++ or C#),
• Interest in psychology –models theory and rehabilitation of speech production impairments in post-stroke aphasia
• Experience of computer-delivered learning tools (e.g.: Apps)
• Confidence in basic techniques in the analysis of quantitative data analysis
• Proven ability to analyse and write up data
• Experience of working in a research environment

DESIRABLE or skills to acquire on job:

• Programming skills in Unity, C#,
• Experience in game-development,
• Experience in frequency/maths signal processing,
• Experience in machine-learning,
• Experience in big-data analysis,
• Experience in cloud, mobile tools

Informal enquiries to: Prof William Latham: [Email Address Removed]
Informal enquiries to : Dr Jenny Crinion : [Email Address Removed]
If your query regards the application process, please contact Rosalyn Lawrence ([Email Address Removed])


1. Applications must be made through UCL Admissions via the link below. Applicants should select the programme RRDPLSSICN01 PhD full time; Division of Psychology and Language Sciences and complete the application as per the guidelines. 

2. Two academic references must be submitted (by the referee) to Rosalyn Lawrence ([Email Address Removed]). Please note that automated reference requests are also sent to the referees named in the online application once it has been submitted.

Funding Notes


This award funds home/EU UCL fee level and London minimum stipend of £16K (living costs, this stipend is not taxed) for 4 years. To apply, you need to hold an undergraduate or Masters degree (at least 2:1 or equivalent) and meet the MRC residency criteria. UK residents are eligible for a full award (fees plus maintenance stipend).

EU residents may be eligible for a fees-only award (see below) but must provide proof of sponsorship or the ability to self-support maintenance costs for the duration of the award. 

Applicants who do not fulfill these criteria are not eligible.
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