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Brain mechanisms underpinning green exercise wellness

Project Description

The term ‘Green Exercise’ (GE) originated at Essex; much of the pioneering conceptual research was conducted here.

Research evidences that GE (physical activity in greenspaces) can enhance affective states and attention levels and reduce stress compared to equivalent exercise in other environments. Environments play a key role in activity choices and promotes wellness.

To date GE research has focused on measuring psychological outcomes of engagement but hasn’t investigated underpinning mechanisms.

Novel developments in neuroscience and brain stimulation allows functional characterisation of the brain circuits underlying wellness. These techniques involve non-invasive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and electroencephalography (EEG) to investigate functional changes in neural activity.

The project

This PhD project will combine EEG and TMS with a systematic GE program to characterise functional changes in affective brain circuit linked to GE.

We will contrast brain affective responses before, during and after GE versus indoor exercise. Then, we will characterise the role of the affective brain areas towards functional changes associated to GE.


Significant advancement of our understanding of the neurobiology underpinning GE and its benefits for wellbeing.

This will form the basis for translational research to inform environmental, governmental and public health policy and practice, generating wider impact and wellness opportunities.


The award consists of a full Home/EU fee waiver or equivalent fee discount for overseas students (further fee details), a doctoral stipend equivalent to the Research Councils UK National Minimum Doctoral Stipend (£15,009 in 2019-20, stipend for 2020-21 tbc), plus £2,500 training bursary via Proficio funding, which may be used to cover the cost of advanced skills training including conference attendance and travel.


We are looking for applicants with a BSc or MSc in psychology, sport and exercise psychology and/or neuroimaging techniques/data, or other related discipline.

How to apply

You can apply for this postgraduate research opportunity online (

Please include your CV, covering letter, personal statement, and transcripts of UG and Masters degrees in your application.

The University has moved to requiring only one reference for PhD applications and these can be received after a conditional offer has been made so the absence of these will not hold up the recruitment process.

Find out more about this studentship and information on how to apply on our website (

Funding Notes

A full Home/EU fee waiver or equivalent fee discount for overseas students (£5,103 in 2020-21) (further fee details - international students will need to pay the balance of their fees) plus a doctoral stipend equivalent to the RCUK Minimum Doctoral Stipend (£15,009 in 2019-20, stipend for 2020-21 tbc).

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