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Beating cognitive and neural decline in healthy ageing and Huntington’s disease with HD-DRUM, a novel drumming training app.

   Cardiff School of Psychology

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  Dr C Metzler-Baddeley, Prof A Rosser, Prof D Jones, Prof Monica Busse  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Accumulating evidence points to the potential benefits of music training in combating cognitive and motor decline in ageing and movement disorders (Herholz & Zatorre, 2012; Nombela et al, 2013; Schwartz et al, 2019). This PhD project will investigate the effects of a novel drumming training app (HD-DRUM) on cognitive and motor functions in healthy ageing and Huntington’s disease (HD) (Casella et al., 2020; Metzler-Baddeley et al. 2014). HD is a neurogenerative disease that affects the basal ganglia circuits that are important for motor and executive functions and may therefore benefit particularly from drumming motor sequence and rhythm training. The PhD student’s research project will involve studying the brain plasticity mechanisms underpinning any cognitive and movement benefits of HD-DRUM by means of structural and/or functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) at 3T and/or 7T at the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC).

He/she will also address the question whether inter-individual differences in cognitive and motor performance at baseline predict training benefits with the aim to identify clinical characteristics that may facilitate any benefits of HD-DRUM.

 The PhD student will be supervised by Dr Claudia Metzler-Baddeley and will benefit from training opportunities at CUBRIC, the School of Psychology and Centre for Trials Research including training in feasibility trial design, good clinical practice, cognitive assessment, structural and functional MRI data acquisition, analyses and interpretation, brain anatomy and experience in working with older people and people with HD.

Please contact Claudia Metzler-Baddeley ([Email Address Removed]) for further information about the project.


Casella C, Bourbon-Teles J, Bells S, Coulthard E, Parker GD, Rosser A, Jones DK & Metzler-Baddeley C (2020) Drumming motor sequence training induces apparent myelin remodelling in Huntington’s Disease: a longitudinal diffusion MRI and quantitative magnetization transfer study. Journal of Huntington’s Disease, 9. 303-20.

 Herholz SC & Zatorre RJ (2012) Musical training as a framework for brain plasticity: behavior, function, and structure. Neuron, 76.

 Metzler-Baddeley C, Cantera J, Coulthard E, Rosser A, Jones DK & Baddeley R (2014) Improved executive function and callosal white matter microstructure aftehr rhythm exercise in Huntington’s disease. Journal of Huntington’s Disease, 3, 273-83.

 Nombela C, Hughes LE, Owen AM & Grahn JA (2013) Into the groove: can rhythm influence Parkinson’s disease? Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews, 37, 2564-70.

Schwartz AE, van Walsem MR, Brean A & Frich JC (2019) Therapeutic use of music, dance, and rhythmic auditory cueing for patients with Huntington’s disease: a systematic review. Journal of Huntington’s Disease, 8, 393-420.

Funding Notes

This studentship is open to Home, EU or international students. The funding available differs depending on country of origin:
UK students: Home fees and maintenance stipend will be covered.
International/EU candidates: We can usually offer 1-2 full studentships to cover full or partial fees. Otherwise, international/EU students will need to self-fund the difference between UK Home fees and International fees.


You can apply online - consideration is automatic on applying for a PhD in Psychology, with an October 2021 start date (programme code RFPDPSYA).
Please use our online application service at
and specify in the funding section that you wish to be considered for School funding.
Please specify that you are applying for this particular project and the supervisor.
Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals, and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. To be eligible for the full award, EU Nationals must have been in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the course for which they are seeking funding, including for the purposes of full-time education.
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