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Investigating individual differences in heat-stress vulnerability and in response to symptomatic treatment at a patient level in heat-sensitive neurodegenerative diseases

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Reference number: SDCA/DF2020HEATSTRESS
Start date: 1 July or 1 October 2020 or 1 Jan 2021
Application deadline: 1 May 2020
3 years full-time
Primary supervisor: Dr Davide Filingeri

The aim of this PhD project is to investigate the independent and interactive role of the perceptual, physiological, and neuroanatomical mechanisms that predispose individuals to heat vulnerability, and how their relative contribution translates in different degrees of heat vulnerability amongst patients. With this PhD project, the prospective student will focus on investigating the impact of heat stress in the common and particularly heat-vulnerable neurodegenerative disease Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This will be achieved by performing in vivo heat stress experiments involving heat sensitive patients and healthy control individuals.

Loughborough University

Loughborough University is a top-ten rated university in England for research intensity (REF2014). In choosing Loughborough for your research, you’ll work alongside academics who are leaders in their field. You will benefit from comprehensive support and guidance from our Graduate School, including tailored careers advice, to help you succeed in your research and future career.

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Global warming, and the related increase in extreme heat events, is now the greatest threat to our survival. Patients affected by chronic illness (e.g. neurodegenerative diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis) are the most vulnerable to the heat. Yet, we still understand very little about what drives vulnerability to the heat at the level of the individual neurological patient, due to a broad individual variability in heat responses within and between heat-vulnerable conditions.

The impact of heat stress on vulnerable groups and health services is already significant and projected to increase, with an estimated global direct damage cost to health of USD 3 billion/year by 20301. If we do not develop a better understanding of what drives heat sensitivity at a patient level, along with ways to predict and mitigate heat vulnerability effectively, the burden on people and pressure on health services will inevitably increase.

Supervision and training

The project will be conducted under the primary supervision of Dr Davide Filingeri. Over the past 6 years, Dr Filingeri has generated novel and cutting-edge knowledge on how humans sense skin temperature and wetness, and he has successfully leveraged this fundamental science to better understand how temperature sensing mechanisms fail when neurodegeneration takes place, positioning himself as an emerging international leader in this field. This project builds on these breakthroughs in human thermal and wetness sensing and their unique application for better understanding heat-sensitive neurodegeneration.

Successful applicants will use a combination of physiological and psychophysical methods in human-based thermoregulatory research, and will be based at the THERMOSENSELAB (, within the Environmental Ergonomics Research Centre. At THERMOSENSELAB we have a track record of conducting human research in heat sensitive people with MS, and applicants will be provided with specialist training in thermosensory and thermoregulatory research methods applied to healthy and clinical groups. Our projects are often conducted in collaboration with local and international academic and clinical colleagues, providing for additional training and networking opportunities.


The fundamental insights developed during this PhD will be translated clinically to develop and validate new objective methods to identify heat vulnerable patients, and to test the efficacy of innovative cooling treatments that will be personalised to the heat vulnerability of each patient. This novel experimental framework will be applicable to other heat-vulnerable conditions (e.g. Parkinson’s Disease) and to healthy individuals (e.g. elderly people, menopausal women).

Entry requirements

Students will normally need to hold, or expect to gain, at least a 2:1 degree (or equivalent international qualification) in human biology, neuroscience, psychology, or sport and exercise science. A relevant master’s degree in one of the following areas will be an advantage: human physiology, neuroscience, clinical research. Research experience with clinical or non-clinical participants will also be an advantage.

Contact details

Dr Davide Filingeri
+44(0)1509 228169

How to apply

All applications should be made online:

Under school/department name, select 'Design'. Please quote reference SDCA/DF2020HEATSTRESS.

The deadline for applications is 1 May 2020.


• Christogianni, A., Bibb, R., Davis, SL., Jay, O., Barnett, M., Evangelou, N. & Filingeri, D. Temperature sensitivity in multiple sclerosis: an overview of its impact on sensory and cognitive symptoms. Temperature 5, 208-223 (2018).
• Filingeri, D., Chaseling, G.K., Barnett, M., Hoang, P., Davis, SL., Jay, O. Afferent thermosensory function in relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis following exercise-induced increases in body temperature. Exp. Physiol. 102, 887–8930 (2017).
• Filingeri, D. Neurophysiology of skin thermal sensations. Compr. Physiol. 6, 1429–1491 (2016).

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