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Investigating motor impulse control in Parkinson’s disease using non-invasive brain stimulation

Project Description

The ability to control our urges and impulses is arguably one thing that sets humans apart from other species. We have the capacity to think before we act. This is important as controlling inappropriate impulses is essential to function in society. Poor impulse control is exhibited when an action is performed without delay, reflection, or voluntary direction. Impulse control is impaired in numerous psychiatric and neurological conditions including Parkinson’s disease.

Impulse control is a multidimensional construct. However it can broadly be broken down into cognitive and motor domains. The cognitive domain refers to the ability to evaluate the potential consequences of a decision and modify the decision accordingly. Motor impulse control refers to the ability to suppress an inappropriate action and recruits a diverse network of motor regions throughout the brain. This control heavily relies on a region in the brain known as the basal ganglia, which is severely affected in Parkinson’s disease. However dysfunction within the basal ganglia can also have widespread effects throughout the brain via complex interactions in the motor system.

The current project aims to investigate neural mechanisms underlying impaired motor impulse control in Parkinson’s disease. We will do this by employing a combination of behavioural and neurophysiological techniques including non-invasive brain stimulation (e.g. transcranial magnetic stimulation) and electromyography. Studies will involve Parkinson’s disease patients and healthy adults as control participants.

The project will be supervised by Dr Hayley MacDonald and Dr Craig McAllister, and conducted in the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences.

1. A good first degree (2.1 or above) in neuroscience, psychology, biosciences or a related subject.
2. A strong interest in human neurophysiology and working with human participants.
3. Excellent communication skills.
4. English language certificate (English at GCSE or equivalent)

1. Experience working with older adults and patients.
2. Excellent research methods skills.

Funding Notes

Applications from UK, EU and overseas students are welcome. We welcome applicants who are either self-funded or planning to apply for scholarships. If the applicant identifies a suitable PhD scholarship, the PI will be happy to work with the student in the proposal stage (please email the PI).

For more information on our PhD program and how to apply see View Website

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.40

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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