Football and dementia: Understanding the brain-health consequences of football heading

   Faculty of Natural Sciences

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  Dr Magdalena Ietswaart, Prof Lindsay Wilson  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project is one of 16 four year PhD Studentships funded by Medical Research Scotland ( to be delivered jointly by the named University and External Partner Organisation (EPO). The Studentship will provide the first-class academic and additional training provided by the EPO needed to equip the successful candidate for a science career in an increasingly competitive market.

"Football and dementia: Understanding the brain health consequences of heading the ball." to be delivered by the University of Stirling [Supervisors: Dr Magdalena Ietswaart and Professor Lindsay Wilson (both Department of Psychology, University of Stirling) and the Magstim Company Ltd (h [EPO Supervisor: Ms Anna Hodges].

It was recently shown that there is a link between football and dementia. This follows on from our previous findings at the University of Stirling which showed that when a footballer headed a ball there were acute effects on memory and measurable changes to brain functioning, linking to brain health. There is a lack of direct evidence for the biological and functional consequences of such routine head impact in sport. This project aims to provide direct evidence at a brain-level.

The effects of football heading on measures of brain health will be evaluated. We will assess football players before and after heading the ball using state-of-the-art markers of brain health, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, innovative precision brain imaging, and fluid biomarkers associated with brain injury, each looking at the neuro-chemical changes as a direct result of heading the ball. These chemical changes are of relevance to understanding the link between dementia and football.

This is a demanding PhD as the project employs multiple cutting-edge methods in an experimental approach. The project requires extensive innovation developed as part of a multi-disciplinary team. You will, therefore, have input and support from different fields: neuroscience, neuropsychology, medicine, and physics. Working on this project is for candidates who relish the (technical) challenges of monitoring neural processes in the real-world using a range of brain technologies in new and innovative ways.

Your primary base will be the specialist research laboratories of the University of Stirling under the direction of Dr Magdalena Ietswaart and Professor Lindsay Wilson. Part of the research will take place at Glasgow's Imaging Centre of Excellence (ICE) under the guidance of Prof David Porter (Glasgow). You will link to specialists in the field in the UK and abroad such as Professor Ferdinand Binkofski (Aachen, Germany) and Professor Stefania Mondello (Messina, Italy). The project’s external partner organisation is Magstim (Whitland, UK). You will work closely with other Cognitive Neuroscience PhD students at the University of Stirling working on this topic, and link to imaging researchers from different disciplines (e.g. MR physics) at other Scottish universities through SINAPSE, Scotland’s (medical) imaging network.


Enquiries should be sent by email to Dr Magdalena Ietswaart:

[Email Address Removed]


Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a first or 2.1 UK honours degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK, in a relevant discipline. Wider research experience is desirable. Formal evidence of English language proficiency may be required.

Applicants should send (1) a CV; (2) the contact details of 2 research-relevant referees (including email addresses); (3) transcript(s) of relevant degree(s) you have undertaken, listing the subjects and the grade awarded for each subject; and (4) a covering letter, explaining why you are the right person to carry out this project, by email to Dr Magdalena Ietswaart:

[Email Address Removed], copying in Mrs Nicola Hunt [Email Address Removed]

Please note, your application may be shared with the funders of this PhD Studentship, Medical Research Scotland and Magstim.

Interviews are expected to take place 3-4 weeks after the closing date for applications. Interviews may be conducted by video conference.

The PhD Studentship can start as soon as the candidate is available.

Biological Sciences (4) Engineering (12) Medicine (26) Physics (29) Psychology (31) Sport & Exercise Science (33)

Funding Notes

PhD Studentship provides: an annual tax-free stipend of £17,500, increasing to £18,000 over the four years; tuition fees (for Home or International students); consumables; and generous travel allowance.


Where will I study?

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