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MRC Precision Medicine DTP: Integrating circadian, neuroimaging and genetic data to investigate major depression and bipolar disorder

Project Description

Prof Daniel Smith
Dr Heather Whalley
Dr Laura Lyall

PhD project summary:
Disruption to daily circadian rhythms is associated with greater risk of mood disorder and impaired cognitive ability. However, so far most studies have used subjective measures of rhythmicity, small or cross-sectional samples, and haven’t examined potential mediators and moderators of effects.

This interdisciplinary project will use chronobiological, neuroimaging and genetic data from the landmark UK Biobank cohort. The cohort includes lifestyle, sociodemographic and genetic data for over 500,000 individuals and brain MRI for 25,000; and our group has already derived objective accelerometry-based measures of circadian rest-activity rhythms for 100,000 individuals. Using this wealth of data, machine learning and regression methods can help determine which objective rhythmicity variables best predict mood disorder and related outcomes; and whether the influence of circadian disruption on mood and cognition is partly due to effects on brain structure, or is moderated by genetic factors. Using data from linked health records of UK Biobank participants, models will be developed to assess whether mood disorder episodes can be predicted from a combination of circadian rhythmicity, neuroimaging, genetic, sociodemographic and lifestyle factors. This project will suit students with backgrounds in statistics, epidemiology, psychology, genetics or imaging, and the student will have the opportunity to develop high-level skills in each of these areas under the supervision of a diverse multidisciplinary team.

This MRC programme is joint between the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. You will be registered at the host institution of the primary supervisor detailed in your project selection.

All applications should be made via the University of Edinburgh, irrespective of project location:

Please note, you must apply to one of the projects and you should contact the primary supervisor prior to making your application. Additional information on the application process if available from the links below.

For more information about Precision Medicine visit:

Main programme page:

Funding Notes

Start: September 2019

Qualifications criteria: Applicants applying for a MRC DTP in Precision Medicine studentship must have obtained, or will soon obtain, a first or upper-second class UK honours degree or equivalent non-UK qualifications, in an appropriate science/technology area.

Residence criteria: The MRC DTP in Precision Medicine grant provides tuition fees and stipend of at least £14,777 (RCUK rate 2018/19) for UK and EU nationals that meet all required eligibility criteria.

Full eligibility details are available: View Website

Enquiries regarding programme:

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