Coventry University Featured PhD Programmes
National University of Ireland, Galway Featured PhD Programmes
University of Reading Featured PhD Programmes

Comparing the effects of face-to-face and ‘digital’ psychosocial stress

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

Manchester United Kingdom Medical Physics Neuroscience Other

About the Project

The working and social climate for the majority of people in UK has changed dramatically in recent months. Adapting to online working and socializing has added to the sources of potential stress in our lives. An inability to handle stress – which is often exacerbated by adverse childhood experiences – is a key predictor of problems with mood and cognition, such as memory and decision-making. In this project the student will examine key differences between psychosocial stressors experienced in person, to those experienced online. We will also examine how differences in this stress reactivity relates to levels of GABA, the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, within critical brain regions linked to stress.

First, the student will carry out behavioural studies to examine how people respond to an online stress task, compared to a stress task carried out face to face. They will then examine whether people with a history of early life stress differ in their responses to this social stress. Last, they will carry out a Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy study to test whether levels of GABA in the anterior cingulate cortex differ between those who are highly stress-reactive, compared to those who are more relisient.

Throughout the project the student will have the opportunity to work in a thriving academic environment with opportunities to expand their PhD studies throughout.

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in a related area / subject. Candidates with an interest in neuroimaging are particularly encouraged to apply.

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select PhD Cognitive Neuroscience

For international students we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 1 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website (View Website). For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website: View Website

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website View Website


1. He Z, Dandan Z, Muhlert N, Elliott R. (2019). Neural substrates for anticipation and consumption of social and monetary incentives in depression. Social & Cognitive Neuroscience, 14 (8): 815-26.
2. He Z, Zhao J, Shen J, Muhlert N, Elliott R, Zhang D. (2020). The right VLPFC and downregulation of social pain: A TMS study. Human Brain Mapping. 41 (5): 1362-71.
3. Crawford B, Muhlert N, Macdonald G, Lawrence A. (In press). Individual differences in social reward and threat expectancies linked to grey matter volumes in key regions of the social brain. Scientific Reports.
4. Mayes AR, Hunkin, NM, Isaac C, Muhlert N. (2019) Are there distinct forms of accelerated forgetting, and if so, why? Cortex, 110, 115-26.
5. BM Coad, M Postans, CJ Hodgetts, N Muhlert, KS Graham, AD Lawrence. (In press). Structural connections support emotional connections: Uncinate Fasciculus microstructure is related to the ability to decode facial emotion expressions. Neuropsychologia.

Email Now

Insert previous message below for editing? 
You haven’t included a message. Providing a specific message means universities will take your enquiry more seriously and helps them provide the information you need.
Why not add a message here

The information you submit to The University of Manchester will only be used by them or their data partners to deal with your enquiry, according to their privacy notice. For more information on how we use and store your data, please read our privacy statement.

* required field

Your enquiry has been emailed successfully

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2021
All rights reserved.