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Investigating the Role of Polyphenol-Rich Fruit in Managing Pain to Facilitate Sleep Quality (Ref: RDFC23/HLS/SER/WALSHE)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Dr I Walshe  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Chronic pain is a common complaint amongst adults, with a prevalence ranging from 10-40%. The consequences of those experiencing pain can range from personal difficulties to an increased economic burden. Individuals living with chronic pain are more likely to have a lower quality of life via a poor physical function, as well as experiencing bouts of poor sleep. While the relationship between pain and sleep is well known, less is known about non-pharmacological interventions that can improve pain, and the effect this may have for individuals with symptoms or conditions that include poor sleep.

Some foods are rich in numerous phyto-compounds, such as anthocyanins and other polyphenols which are well known to reduce inflammation. This can ultimately have an influence on reducing inflammation related pain. Previous evidence has shown that cherry consumption can play an important role in managing inflammatory-related pain in both rat models and human clinical trials. While the link between cherry consumption and ant-inflammatory processes are well established, emerging evidence suggests that Montmorency tart cherry consumption leads to changes in metabolism that is linked to changes in circulating neurotransmitters. This has implications for pain and could offer a unique insight into the management of the condition whereby Montmorency tart cherries may improve inflammatory related pain, but also pain that is independent of inflammation.

The aims of this PhD are to explore the role of Montmorency cherries in perception of pain, and subsequent sleep parameters over a series of studies. The studentship will examine possible antecedents and mechanisms linked to pain, such as changes in neurotransmitters and inflammation, and their subsequent effect on sleep.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

·      Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.

·      Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

·      Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see 

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDFC23/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 10/7/2023

Interviews: August

Start Date: 1 October 2023

Northumbria University is committed to creating an inclusive culture where we take pride in, and value, the diversity of our doctoral students. We encourage and welcome applications from all members of the community. The University hold a bronze Athena Swan award in recognition of our commitment to advancing gender equality, we are a Disability Confident Employer, a member of the Race Equality Charter and are participating in the Stonewall Diversity Champion Programme. We also hold the HR Excellence in Research award for implementing the concordat supporting the career development of researchers. 

We are looking for an enthusiastic and motivated candidate that is dedicated and can make a positive impact. We welcome applications from individuals with a background in a range of biosciences. This project would be well suited to candidates with an interest exercise physiology, nutrition, metabolism, sleep science and biochemistry.

For informal enquires please contact Dr Ian Walshe at [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Funding Notes
The studentship supports a full stipend, paid for three years at UKRI rates (for 2023/24, this is £18,622 pa) and full home tuition fees only
Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:
• Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
• have settled status, or
• have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
• have indefinite leave to remain or enter.


Howatson, G., Bell, P.G., Tallent, J., Middleton, B., McHugh, M.P. and Ellis, J., 2012. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. European journal of nutrition, 51, pp.909-916.
Bell, P.G., McHugh, M.P., Stevenson, E. and Howatson, G., 2014. The role of cherries in exercise and health. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 24(3), pp.477-490.
Kimble, R., Murray, L., Keane, K.M., Haggerty, K., Howatson, G. and Lodge, J.K., 2021. The influence of tart cherries (Prunus Cerasus) on vascular function and the urinary metabolome: a randomised placebo-controlled pilot study. Journal of Nutritional Science, 10, p.e73.
Ellison, P.M., Goodall, S., Kennedy, N., Dawes, H., Clark, A., Pomeroy, V., Duddy, M., Baker, M.R. and Saxton, J.M., 2022. Neurostructural and neurophysiological correlates of multiple sclerosis physical fatigue: systematic review and meta-analysis of cross-sectional studies. Neuropsychology Review, 32(3), pp.506-519.

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