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  Imagery in Action in Parkinson’s disease

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

  ,  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition affecting around 1 in 500 people, with significant impact on movements, which are typically slower and smaller. In healthy people, the brain areas that control the person’s own movements are also involved when just imagining actions (motor imagery) or watching someone else moving (action observation). Motor imagery and action observation may provide strategies for improving movements in Parkinson’s. However, further research is needed to understand whether different cognitive processes are involved in motor imagery in Parkinson’s and how this might be applied within interventions. The project will inform our understanding of how Parkinson’s affects action motor imagery and action observation and how it may be applied within dance and music interventions.

This project will involve comparing people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s to healthy participants of the same age. In the first part, the effect of observation of actions, imagery of actions and combined imagery and observation on the performance of simple hand actions will be investigated. Eye movements will also be tracked during the task, to shed light on how participants attend to and simulate the observed actions. In follow up studies, there is the opportunity to examine how context (dance and music) affect these processes or how motor imagery can be evoked by listening to music.


You will be trained on motion, eye tracking and psychophysics techniques along with statistical analysis using R and open science practices. There is also the potential to use qualitative approaches within the project. You will receive training in patient and public involvement (PPI) and public engagement.

Entry Requirements

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a Psychology, Speech and Language Therapy or a related area/subject.  Candidates with an interest in neuropsychology are encouraged to apply. 

How To Apply

On the online application form select PhD Neuroscience & Experimental Psychology

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.

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

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

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

Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26) Nursing & Health (27) Psychology (31)

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


Bek J, Groves M, Leventhal D, Growcott C, Poliakoff E (2022) Experiences and potential benefits of digital dance for older adults and people with Parkinson’s disease. PLos One, 17(11):e0277645
Readman MRH, Crawford TJ, Linkenauger SA, Bek J, Poliakoff E (2023) Motor imagery vividness and symptom severity in Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Neuropsychology, 17, 180-192
Bek J, Humphries S, Poliakoff E, Brady N (2022) Mental rotation of hands and objects in ageing and Parkinson’s disease: Differentiating motor imagery and visuospatial ability. Experimental Brain Research, 240:1991-2004
Bek J, Arakaki AI, Derbyshire-Fox F, Ganapathy G, Sullivan M, Poliakoff E (2022) More than movement: Exploring motor simulation, creativity, and function in co-developed dance for Parkinson’s. Frontiers in Psychology, 13:731264
Bek J, Gowen E, Vogt S, Crawford TJ, Poliakoff E (2021) Action observation and imitation in Parkinson's disease: The influence of biological and non-biological stimuli. Neuropsychologia, 150, 107690

Register your interest for this project

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