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Investigating the effects of fatigue on sensorimotor control across the lifespan, Sport and Health Sciences – MPhil/PhD (Funded)

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  • Full or part time
    Prof A Jones
    Dr G Buckingham
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

This studentship is offered as part of a call between SWBio DTP (BBSRC) and SWDTP (ESRC) for a competition-funded studentship to commence in September 2018.

Location: Sport and Health Sciences, Streatham campus, University of Exeter

Academic Supervisors:
Professor Andrew Jones University of Exeter
Dr Gavin Buckingham University of Exeter
Professor Timothy Carroll University of Queensland
Dr Patric Bach Plymouth University

Project Description:
We use our hands hundreds of times each day to manipulate and experience our environment, from buttoning our shirt, to lifting a full cup of coffee, to judging whether an avocado is ripe. The skill and flexibility with which we control the movements of our hands is unique in the animal kingdom. A key part of our ability to interact with objects in a skilful fashion is our ability to precisely and automatically control our fingertip forces. Under normal circumstances, this process seems natural and effortless. Under conditions of extreme fatigue, however, grasping and lifting objects can seem substantially more challenging. This is a particularly relevant issue in elderly individuals, who become fatigued far more quickly than younger individuals by a range of everyday tasks.

This PhD project will examine how different types of fatigue affect our ability to interact with objects in our environment. We will use high-resolution motion tracking and object-mounted force sensors to systematically evaluate how different types of fatigue (muscular, central, and cognitive), affect our ability to interact with objects. Although fatigue is a consequence of many different types of disease and injuries, this project will be undertaken in the context of healthy ageing. Across a series of experiments, the trainee will examine the consequences of a range of different fatiguing protocols designed to exhaust individual muscles, the cardiovascular system, or the mind of young-adult, middle-aged, and elderly populations.

This work will not only shed light on how elderly individuals respond to fatigue, but will also answer fundamental questions about how our brain combines information from the central and peripheral nervous systems to control our movements across the lifespan. Beyond these benefits, this research project could have future implications for health and safety protocols for fatigue-intensive environments (e.g., fire and rescue, offshore etc). Because of the inter-disciplinary nature of this project, the trainee will benefit from a range of unique training opportunities in behavioural and physiological research techniques across the UK and Australia.

General Information
The SWDTP led studentship will be awarded on a +3 basis, to start in the 2018 academic year and there are no compulsory taught units involved, however they will have access to SWDTP events and some SWBio DTP training opportunities, which can be accessed in line with the PhD project. An RTSG of £750 per year will also be awarded to the successful ESRC SWDTP candidate. The studentship will provide funding for 3 years.

The studentship will cover a stipend at the minimum Research Council rate, currently £14,777 per annum, research costs and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for students who meet the residency requirements outlined by the AHRC. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award but no stipend. Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.

Entry requirements:
Applicants for this studentship 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 a relevant degree programme. For further information about eligibility criteria please see

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