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  Neuroimaging in Disorders of Consciousness

   School of Psychology

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  Dr D Fernández-Espejo  Applications accepted all year round

About the Project

The vegetative state, and related disorders of consciousness, are one of the least understood and most challenging conditions in modern medicine. Applications are welcome from students who are keen on investigating the brain mechanisms that support consciousness and what goes wrong for patients to become entirely unaware after severe brain injury. The lab uses functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and behavioural experiments in both healthy volunteers and patient with a severe brain injury. Our work is directly translated into the development of diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers to be used in clinical settings, as well as the development of novel treatment approaches.

Please check the lab’s website for more details:

Applicants should have a research-oriented background in cognitive neuroscience, experimental psychology, or computer science and should have basic programming skills (e.g., MATLAB). Experience with neuroimaging, non-invasive brain stimulation and data analysis is desirable. 

Applications are invited for a PhD to begin in September 2016. 

The successful applicant will be based in the University of Birmingham School of Psychology, and would be supervised by Dr Davinia Fernández-Espejo. The School of Psychology ranked 5th in the UK for its world-leading (4*) research, making it one of the best Psychology schools in the country.  We are one of the largest and most active psychology departments in the UK and have an excellent reputation for teaching and research with around 800 students studying in a wide range of undergraduate, postgraduate and research programmes. Further information can be found at:

For informal enquiries about the project please contact Dr. Davinia Fernández-Espejo ([Email Address Removed]).

Formal applications must be made via the postgraduate admissions system in the School of Psychology. In order for the application to be processed quickly, candidates should submit a personal statement, CV, 2 references, and transcript of grades. 

A copy of the on-line application form and guidance notes can be found at the following website:

Funding Notes

Competitive funding is occasionally available for excellent students to cover home/EU tuition fees and a tax-free maintenance grant for 3 years (£13,863/ year in 2014/15). International Students from outside the EU may apply, but may be liable for the difference between UK/EU and International (Overseas) tuition fees. Please indicate in the funding section of the application form if you wish to be considered for a competitive studentship offered by the University of Birmingham and e-mail [Email Address Removed] to indicate you have applied. 

Applications for self-funded PhD projects are always welcome. If you are interested, please directly contact [Email Address Removed].


1. Fernández-Espejo D, Rossit S, Owen AM. A Thalamocortical Mechanism for the Absence of Overt Motor Behavior in Covertly Aware Patients. JAMA Neurology 2015, in press. link

2. Osborne N, Owen AM and Fernández-Espejo D. The dissociation between command following and communication in disorders of consciousness: an fMRI study in healthy subjects. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 2015; 9:493. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00493 link

3. Fernández-Espejo D, Owen AM. Detecting awareness after severe brain injury. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2013;14(11):801-9. pdf

4. Fernández-Espejo D, Soddu A, Cruse D, Palacios EM, Junque C, Vanhaudenhuyse A, Rivas E, Newcombe V, Menon D, Pickard J, Laureys S, Owen A. A role for the default mode network in the structural bases of disorders of consciousness. Annals of Neurology, 2012;72(3):335-43. pdf

5. Fernández-Espejo D, Bekinschtein T, Monti MM, Pickard JD, Junque C, Coleman MR, Owen AM. Diffusion weighted imaging distinguishes the vegetative state from the minimally conscious state. Neuroimage 2011; 54:103-12. pdf

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