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MRC DiMeN Doctoral Training Partnership: Improving Patients’ Outcomes through Augmented Reality Rehabilitation

   MRC DiMeN Doctoral Training Partnership

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  Prof Rory O'Connor, Prof Shane Xie, Mr Jorgen Ellis  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This is a highly interdisciplinary project with supervisors from medicine, robotics, clinical engineering and business. The student will be immersed in a collaborative research environment, developing skills from the range of professions in the supervisory team and placing them at a significant advantage in future research or industrial roles, particularly with regular short placements during the studentship and a longer placement to complete the training programme, which will enable the student to develop key transferable skills in digital therapies.

One in six people in the UK are living with a long-term neurological condition. This number will increase as the population ages and more people are living with multiple long-term conditions. Most long-term neurological conditions are progressive and do not have a cure. For many people, the best treatment is a rehabilitation programme that aims to maintain independence, autonomy and dignity. Rehabilitation is an intensive process relying on a personalised programme of precision treatments that target specific impairments experienced by the individual.

There is an urgent need to develop new treatments for people to use in their own homes. This project aims to take an augmented reality rehabilitation system for people living with Parkinson’s disease and develop it for people living with multiple sclerosis and stroke. Augmented reality allows computer-generated input to a patient’s view of the “real world”, overcoming the limitations of virtual reality-delivered healthcare interventions.

The student will be involved in co-designing interventions for cognitive and physical rehabilitation with healthcare professionals and people living with multiple sclerosis and stroke, work with engineers and computer scientists to translate these interventions into augmented reality rehabilitation exercises and carry out feasibility work to test the deployment of the technology in people’s homes.

Each stage of the PhD will have a unique approach based on the latest research in each area. State-of-the-art user-centred design will be employed to develop the rehabilitation interventions and will be based on the patient and public involvement and engagement methodology developed by the supervisors. Rehabilitation activities will be broken down into individual cognitive and physical components and gamified in an augmented reality protocol using techniques developed by the industrial partner. A phase 2 open-label uncontrolled feasibility study will be conducted with 30 people living with multiple sclerosis and stroke using a protocol developed by the primary supervisor, with study participants using the technology at home to assess acceptability and generate data for further clinical investigations.

The student will be involved in all elements of the project and will be provided with training and mentorship by the supervisory team in each of the research areas. This project will deliver novel augmented reality home-based rehabilitation and we expect high impact conference presentations and publications, as well as the potential for further research.

Benefits of being in the DiMeN DTP:

This project is part of the Discovery Medicine North Doctoral Training Partnership (DiMeN DTP), a diverse community of PhD students across the North of England researching the major health problems facing the world today. Our partner institutions (Universities of Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, York and Sheffield) are internationally recognised as centres of research excellence and can offer you access to state-of the-art facilities to deliver high impact research.

We are very proud of our student-centred ethos and committed to supporting you throughout your PhD. As part of the DTP, we offer bespoke training in key skills sought after in early career researchers, as well as opportunities to broaden your career horizons in a range of non-academic sectors.

Being funded by the MRC means you can access additional funding for research placements, international training opportunities or internships in science policy, science communication and beyond. See how our current DiMeN students have benefited from this funding here: https://www.dimen.org.uk/blog

Further information on the programme and how to apply can be found on our website:


Funding Notes

Fully funded by the MRC for 4yrs, including a minimum of 3 months working with an industry partner.
Funding will cover tuition fees and an enhanced stipend (around £20,168). We also aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and are able to offer a limited number of full studentships to international applicants. Please read additional guidance here: https://www.dimen.org.uk/eligibility-criteria
Studentships commence: 1st October 2023
Good luck!


Dhakal R, Baniya M, Solomon RM, Rana C, Ghimire P, Hariharan R, Makower SG, Meng W, Halpin S, Xie S, O’Connor RJ, Allsop M, Sivan M. TEleRehabilitation Nepal (TERN) to improve the quality of life of people with spinal cord injury and acquired brain injury. A proof-of-concept study. Rehabilitation Process and Outcome 2022
Hampshire L, Dehghani-Sanij A, O’Connor RJ. Restorative rehabilitation robotics to promote function, independence and dignity: users’ perspectives on clinical applications. Journal of Medical Engineering & Technology 2022
Clark W, Sivan M, O’Connor RJ. Evaluating the use of robotic and virtual reality rehabilitation technologies to improve function in stroke survivors: a narrative review. Journal of Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies Engineering 2019
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