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Baby-beats: Cardiac Interoception in Infancy

School of Psychology

About the Project

Baby-beats: Cardiac Interoception in Infancy  

Applications are invited for a three-year fully funded PhD studentship within the School of Psychology, Bangor University. The studentship covers the full cost of tuition fees for PhD students, plus a maintenance stipend (approx. £15,200 per annum for 3 years) as well as a generous research allowance of £750. The studentship can commence from July 2021 although there may be some flexibility with regard to start date. The appointment will remain open until filled by a suitable candidate. The project outlined below 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.

Project rationale and 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. Dr. Maister’s research explores self-representation, self-awareness and embodiment. Her 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 her 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. She is 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.

Requirements: 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

Facilities: The successful candidate will be a member of the thriving Social Neuroscience and Cognition research group within the School of Psychology. This group meets regularly to present and discuss planned and on-going projects as well as important developments in the field. More widely, the School benefits from an excellent research environment, with a large community of PhD students and research-active faculty, regular lab meetings, seminars, and visiting speakers, and extensive facilities for behavioural and neuroscientific studies, including a brand-new research-dedicated 3T MRI centre, associated TMS suite and EEG laboratory.

Bangor’s School of Psychology was established in 1963 and now has one of the largest student cohorts in the UK and a cosmopolitan feel due to the presence of staff and students from over 20 countries. It is currently ranked in the UK’s top 20 for research activity (2014 Research Excellence Framework assessment).

Residency requirements: This studentship is primarily aimed at UK students. However, those who are interested, but are from outside of the UK, should contact to discuss the conditions for the funding of international students.

General information: PhD students are expected to contribute to teaching in the department. The school provides excellent training in teaching and many students achieve HEA qualifications whilst completing their PhDs. The initial appointment for the position will be for a period of one year, with an extension of 2 years after positive evaluation of capabilities and compatibility. The appointment must lead to the completion of a PhD thesis.

Further information: Informal enquiries about the studentship and more guidance should you want to prepare a more detailed proposal should be directed to Dr. Maister, .

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. This should be a maximum of 2 pages in length.

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: This should be no longer than two pages. Where appropriate, this should also include proof of English Language Competency (7.0 IELTS minimum).

4.   Research Proposal: This should be between 3 and 4 pages in length (12pt, double-line spaced). It should broadly refer to the project outlined 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.

Funding Notes

The studentship covers the full cost of tuition fees for PhD students, plus a maintenance stipend (approx. £15,200 per annum for 3 years) as well as a generous research allowance of £750. This studentship is primarily aimed at UK students. However, those who are interested, but are from outside of the UK, should contact Dr. Maister () to discuss the conditions for the funding of international students.

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