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GW4 BioMed MRC DTP PhD studentship: Using mobile electroencephalography (EEG) and computational modelling to understand the role of sleep in disease progression in amnestic mild cognitive impairment


Department of Psychology

About the Project

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the ‘GW4 BioMed MRC Doctoral Training Partnership’ which is offering up to 17 studentships for entry in October 2021.

The DTP brings together the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter to develop the next generation of biomedical researchers. Students will have access to the combined research strengths, training expertise and resources of the four research-intensive universities. More information may be found here: https://www.gw4biomed.ac.uk/.

SUPERVISORY TEAM:

Dr George Stothart (lead), University of Bath, Department of Psychology https://researchportal.bath.ac.uk/en/persons/george-stothart
Dr Karin Petrini, University of Bath, Department of Psychology
Dr Elizabeth Coulthard, University of Bristol, School of Clinical Sciences
Dr Marc Goodfellow, University of Exeter, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences

Collaborator: Bryce Mander, University of California, Dreem

THE PROJECT:

This PhD will ask:

Can we understand the role sleep plays in the development of dementia symptoms and pathology?

Background:

Disruption to sleep causes dementia pathology and symptoms. New mobile electroencephalography (EEG) technology now makes it possible to measure brain activity during sleep, remotely, in patients’ natural home environments. The project will harness this new technology to understand the role of sleep in early dementia, bringing together clinical neurologists, neuroscientists, biomedical mathematicians and an industrial partner to provide a unique, ambitious and interdisciplinary studentship.

The project and training:

You will receive an immersive interdisciplinary experience, working directly with dementia patients and their carers and being trained in experimental design, advanced signal processing techniques and biomedical computational modelling.

In the first year you will complete two invaluable secondments:

1) to the world leading Sleep, Cognitive Aging, and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, hosted by Dr Bryce Mander, where you will undertake an intensive training program in the objective measurement of sleep.

2) to Dreem scientific headquarters in Paris where you will support ongoing research projects and be trained in remote neurophysiological data capture using Dreem technology.

Following your intensive training secondments, you will test mild cognitive impairment patients (a form of early dementia) in a longitudinal study. They will complete standardised tests of cognition and sleep and be provided with a mobile EEG headset and laptop. You will then provide remote instructions to the patient and partner/carer via online video calls each night allowing the recording of patients’ sleep entirely remotely. Patients will also complete a novel EEG test battery to assess attention, memory and language function. Patients’ clinical outcome, e.g. conversion to dementia, will be updated at 6 monthly intervals. Computational models will be developed using the spectral characteristics of sleep EEG to understand network dysfunction and predict conversion to dementia.

You will learn transferable data science skills through the measurement, quantification and analysis of sleep and cognition (under the supervision of Drs Coulthard, Mander, Stothart & Petrini), and mathematical modelling of biological data (under the supervision of Dr Goodfellow). These will include programming neurophysiological experiments, capturing data using the latest mobile EEG systems, analysing sleep EEG using complex signal processing techniques, and building models of the brain using computational tools. This training will put you at the forefront of cutting-edge clinical research, ensuring you are highly sought after for post-doctoral training and employment.

Impact:

The results of your work will improve our understanding of sleep as a potential therapeutic target in both dementia disease-modification and symptom management, in a critical population for the early diagnosis of dementia (mild cognitive impairment).

APPLICATIONS:

Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an area appropriate to the skills requirements of the project.

IMPORTANT: In order to apply for this project, you should apply using the DTP’s online application form: https://cardiff.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/gw4-biomed-mrc-doctoral-training-partnership-student-appl-2

You do NOT need to apply to the University of Bath at this stage – only those applicants who are successful in obtaining an offer of funding form the DTP will be required to submit an application to study at Bath.

More information on the application process may be found here:
https://www.gw4biomed.ac.uk/doctoral-students/

APPLICATIONS CLOSE AT 17:00 ON 23 NOVEMBER 2020.

Funding Notes

UK students will be considered for a full 3.5-year studentship consisting of UK tuition fees, a Research and Training Support Grant of £2000-£5000 per annum and a stipend (£15,285 per annum for 2020/21, updated each year).

International applicants (including EU applicants) are also eligible to apply but will be required to pay the difference between the Home UKRI tuition fee View Website and the applicable University of Bath Overseas tuition fee rate View Website. Confirmation of ability to fund the tuition fee difference will be required.

References

Dr Stothart’s Fastball lab https://osf.io/r5tns/
Dr Coulthard’s Remembr group https://www.nbt.nhs.uk/remembr-group

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