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Assessing brain blood vessel function in atrial fibrillation using magnetic resonance imaging

About This PhD Project

Project Description

The brain possess critical regulatory mechanisms to ensure adequate compensatory blood vessel dilation and increased perfusion (known as “cerebrovascular reactivity”). Cerebrovascular reactivity is impaired in a number of cerebrovascular diseases and neurological disorders, and is an established predictor of stroke and cardiovascular mortality. We have recently identified impaired cerebrovascular function in atrial fibrillation, a common abnormality of heart rhythm associated with increased risk of stroke, cognitive decline and dementia. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides a state-of-the-art approach for non-invasively acquiring whole brain blood flow images.

What we are looking for in a successful applicant
All applicants would need to meet the University of Auckland criteria for admission into the Masters or PhD programs. In addition, we are looking for motivated students with experience of working with data analysis/ image processing (e.g., MATLAB, Python), who are interested in pursuing brain and/or cardiovascular research. Some experience of working with human volunteer study participants and integrative physiology techniques would be a valuable asset.

The aim of this project is to better understand how atrial fibrillation affects cerebrovascular function, with a longer-term view of diminishing the insidious effect of this condition on the brain. The project will involve the development of state-of-the-art methods for assessing cerebrovascular reactivity within the Centre for Advanced MRI (CAMRI) at the University of Auckland. These methods will be applied in patients with atrial fibrillation and the mechanisms underlining cerebrovascular dysfunction explored. This project will bring together a team of experts in clinical cardiology, medical physics, imaging and cerebrovascular physiology.

Other information
Funding for this project is currently pending.

Skills Taught:
Brain assessment using MRI
Human clinical physiology experiments
Analysis and interpretation of data
Critical analysis of publications
Oral and written communication skills

Eligibility: Applicants must have completed a postgraduate bachelors (honours) degree with first class or second class (division 1) honours, or a masters degree with first class or second class (division 1) honours in Biomedical Sciences, Biomedical Engineering or a related subject. In addition you completed a significant research project, dissertation or thesis, at university level.

Grades or marks achieved at other institutions are given a Grade Point Equivalent (GPE) on the University’s 0-9 grading scale. If you have overseas qualifications you will typically need a GPE of 5.5 or over 8.0 to be eligible for a University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship. We highly recommend that you calculate your GPE before applying. To view an indication of your GPE use our GPE calculator:

Additional information about the University of Auckland Doctoral Entry requirements can be found here:


Neurovascular coupling and cerebral autoregulation in atrial fibrillation.
Junejo RT, Braz ID, Lucas SJ, van Lieshout JJ, Phillips AA, Lip GY, Fisher JP.
J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2019. doi: 10.1177/0271678X19870770. [In press]

Impaired Cerebrovascular Reactivity in Patients With Atrial Fibrillation.
Junejo RT, Braz ID, Lucas SJE, van Lieshout JJ, Lip GYH, Fisher JP.
J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019;73(10):1230-1232. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2019.01.009.

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