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Assessment of premorbid cognitive ability

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Proposed supervisory team: Prof Peter Bright ([email protected], (Psychology),
Dr Ian van der Linde ( )(Computing & Information Science)

Theme: Neuropsychological Assessment

Summary of the research project

It is important for clinicians and researchers to be able to estimate a neurological patient’s prior (i.e., pre-injury or ‘premorbid’) level of ability, typically their ‘full-scale’ IQ. This information is used to evaluate the impact of neurological damage on cognition, treatment planning and recovery monitoring. Standard tests for measuring IQ cannot be used for this purpose directly since a patient’s cognitive impairment will affect the scores obtained in one or more test components, yielding a full-scale IQ score that describes their current rather than premorbid cognitive ability.

Among several approaches proposed to address this problem evidence suggests that so-called ‘hold tests’ are particularly effective (Bright, Jaldow & Kopelman, 2002; Bright and van der Linde, 2018). Hold tests require evaluation of performance on cognitive functions that are both relatively resistant to neurological damage and known to correlate well with IQ in neurologically healthy participants. The estimated premorbid IQ is then compared with current IQ to judge the impact of the neurological condition on general cognitive ability. Other approaches for estimating premorbid IQ include the use of demographic information alone, or in combination with hold test performance.

The proposed research will focus on the development of alternative/novel approaches to increase the precision of premorbid cognitive ability estimates. We have recently published a promising evolutionary algorithm based approach for optimising the precision of hold test performance (van der Linde & Bright, 2018), and we would expect the successful applicant to extend this work. The overall objective of this research will be to successfully develop and publish new tools to benefit researchers and clinicians involved in the assessment of cognitive impairment following neurological injury, thereby improving (i) the clinical management of patients and (ii) the quality of patient-based academic research.

Where you’ll study

Cambridge -


This project is self-funded.

Details of studentships for which funding is available are selected by a competitive process and are advertised on our jobs website as they become available:

Next steps

If you wish to be considered for this project, you will need to apply for our Psychology PhD ( In the section of the application form entitled ’Outline research proposal’, please quote the above title and include a research proposal.

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