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Baby-beats: Cardiac Interoception in Infancy

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, March 01, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Interoception, the sensitivity to visceral sensations, plays an important role in homeostasis and guiding motivated behaviour in adults. It is also considered to be fundamental to bodily self-awareness, and emotional experience. Despite its importance, the developmental origins of interoceptive sensitivity remain a mystery. In previous work, we developed a novel task for measuring infants’ sensitivity to their own cardiac sensations, and provided the first evidence for implicit, flexible interoceptive sensitivity in 5 month old infants, both from behavioural data and EEG recordings. This has now paved the way for further exciting investigation into the hitherto unknown roles and functions of interoception in development. This project will explore its developmental trajectory throughout infancy, how and why it fluctuates moment to moment, and what role individual differences in interoception play in the typical and atypical development of self-regulation, self-awareness and socio-emotional abilities. It will use a combination of behavioural eye-tracking paradigms, physiological recordings, and EEG approaches with infants between 2 and 12 months of age.

Supervisor: Dr Lara Maister
My research explores self-representation, self-awareness and embodiment. My recent work has focussed on the representation of our own bodies, from two complementary perspectives; first, from the outside, in terms of our physical appearance, and second, from the inside, in terms of our interoceptive sensitivity to internal bodily sensations. An important aspect of my work is to understand how the self is represented in relation to others, and how this determines the way we ‘share’ the embodied experiences of others, such as during empathy for pain, motor mimicry or emotional contagion. I am also interested in how our bodily self-representations interact with more abstract, conceptual self-beliefs to provide a rich, multimodal and coherent experience of the self.

Essential requirements:
• First or upper second class degree in psychology, neuroscience or a cognate subject.
• Strong scientific writing skills
• Excellent analytical skills, with experience of statistical software packages (e.g. SPSS, R)
• Strong interest in the proposed project topic
• Highly motivated and creative
• Organised, independent and with excellent time-management skills
Desirable qualities:
• A Masters level qualification in psychology, neuroscience or a cognate subject.
• Experience with human neuroscience techniques (particularly fMRI and/or EEG)
• Computer Programming experience (e.g. with psychological stimulus presentation packages within Matlab, ePrime or Presentation)
• Experience with psychophysiological measurements, including cardiac measurement
• Experience with conducting research with infants

How to apply:
All application must be received through our online application system:
Applications must contain the following documents:
1. Covering letter: This must include a statement explaining your motivation for applying for this studentship, your aspirations beyond completing a PhD, and why you believe your skills and experience would make you well-suited for the position.
2. References: All applications require two academic references to be submitted in support. Candidates must approach referees themselves and include the references with their application.
3. Curriculum Vitae:
4. Research Proposal: This should be between 3 and 4 pages in length (12pt, double-line spaced). It should broadly refer to either one of the two possible projects above, but there is scope for flexibility so it can include alternative related ideas. It must contain (i) your reflections on the aims and purpose of the research, and what aspects particularly interest you; (ii) your proposals for specific research questions, developing the designs and methods of the project; (iii) your ideas with regards to potential results, and their impact on our understanding; and (iv) potential follow-up studies. See the following webpage for guidance on how to prepare a proposal:

Informal enquiries regarding the project should be directed to: .

Funding Notes

The project outlined is one of two potential projects offered by Dr. Maister, only one of which will be funded according to the preference of the successful candidate. The studentship will commence from September 2020. It includes a payment of tuition fees, a maintenance allowance (approximately £15,009 p.a. for 2020/21) for full-time students, updated each year, as well as a generous research allowance per annum. Though targeted at UK/EU students, international students may als be considered. Interested international students must contact the supervisor before applying otherwise your application won't be evaluated.

How good is research at Bangor University in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 21.60

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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