£6,000 FindAPhD Scholarship | APPLICATIONS CLOSING SOON! £6,000 FindAPhD Scholarship | APPLICATIONS CLOSING SOON!

Moving well & feeling good: Motor control and physical activity engagement in children (REF: RDF22/HLS/SER/TEMPEST)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

This project is no longer listed on FindAPhD.com and may not be available.

Click here to search FindAPhD.com for PhD studentship opportunities
  Dr G Tempest  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Worldwide, only half of children master motor skills such as jumping and balancing before adolescence. Children with poor motor skills tend to have low fitness and physical activity levels. Without intervention, it is likely that their inactive lifestyle would extend into adulthood. Perceptual factors including how hard exercise feels (i.e., perceived exertion), how enjoyable it is (i.e., affective valence) and ability to focus (i.e., attentional load) are the strongest predictors of physical activity levels in children. Children with poor motor skills have altered perceptual responses compared to their typically-developing peers. Following motor skill training, children with poor motor skills show positive changes in perceptual responses and reduced brain activity (indicating less cortical demand) comparable to their typically-developing peers. Considering perceptual responses to physical activity are regulated within the brain via interoceptive-cognitive processes, how motor control impacts perceptual responses is unclear. Therefore, the goal of this PhD project is to examine motor control and perceptual factors associated with physical activity responses, and subsequent exercise engagement in children. Using a multi-disciplinary mixed-method approach, this project will generate evidence of the neurophysiological processes underlying motor control and perceptual responses by (i) consolidating existing theory (through systematic and narrative analysis), and (ii) conducting experimental studies using state-of-the-art technologies, such as brain imaging (fNIRS and/or EEG) during novel exercise tasks. It is expected that the project will contribute to the development of new ways to help children master motor skills, improve perceptual responses, and ultimately, increase physical activity engagement.

The supervisory team includes Dr Gavin Tempest (Neurophysiologist), Dr Fiona Ling (Psychologist) & Dr Gill Barry (Biomechanist) from Northumbria University. Project advisors/mentors include Professor Florentina Hettinga (Human Movement Scientist, Northumbria University) & Professor Helen Dawes (Rehabilitation Scientist, Exeter University). The supervisors/advisors provide expertise in complementary fields of research and an extensive (inter)national collaborative network across Europe, North America and Australia.

Interested applicants would ideally have a background in physiotherapy, human movement, neuroscience, physiology or psychology, and/or any other related subject, and an interest in applied exercise research. Experience in (neuro)physiological testing and running statistical analyses is preferred. Experience working with children would be an advantage.

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 or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.

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. RDF22/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 18 February 2022

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff and students. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

Informal enquiries to Dr Gavin Tempest ([Email Address Removed]).

Funding Notes

Each studentship supports a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2021/22 full-time study this is £15,609 per year) and full tuition fees. UK and international (including EU) candidates may apply.
Studentships are available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £9,365 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities.
Please also read the full funding notes which include advice for international and part-time applicants.


1. Ling, FCM., Buszard, T., Rudd, J. & Polman, R. (2019). Confirmation of psychometric properties of the Movement Specific Reinvestment Scale for Children (MSRS-C). European Journal of Sports & Exercise Science, 7, 9-16.
2. Mansoubi M, Weedon BD, Esser P, Mayo N, Fazel M, Wade W, …Dawes H. (2020). Cognitive performance, quality and quantity of movement reflect unhealthy psychological symptoms in adolescents. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 19, 364-373.
3. Tahmosybayat R, Baker K, Godfrey A, Caplan N, Barry G. (2018). Movements of older adults during exergaming interventions that are associated with the Systems Framework for Postural Control: A systematic review. Maturitas, 111, 90-99
4. Tempest GD, Reiss AL. (2019). The utility of fNIRS to measure cortical activity during cycling-exercise. Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise, 51, 979-987.
5. Tavares VDO, Schuch FB, Tempest GD, Parfitt G. Oliveira Neto L, Galvão-Coelho NL & Hackett D. (2021). Exercisers’ Affective and Enjoyment Responses: A Meta-Analytic and Meta-Regression Review. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 128, 2211–2236.
PhD saved successfully
View saved PhDs