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New technology for the remote assessment of anxiety in older people

   School of Engineering

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  Dr J Escudero Rodriguez, Dr Lucy Stirland, Dr Azucena Guzman  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The Advanced Care Research Centre (ACRC) is a new, multi-disciplinary, £20M research centre at the University of Edinburgh. The ACRC will lead society’s response to the grand challenge of an ageing population that is growing in size, longevity and needs through the pursuit of research intended to deliver “high‐quality data‐driven, personalised and affordable care to support the independence, dignity and quality‐of‐life of people living in their own homes and in supported care environments”.

This project sits within the ACRC Academy , a dedicated Centre for Doctoral Training, co-located with the ACRC, whose students will deliver key aspects of the ACRC research agenda through a new doctoral-level research and training programme that will also equip them for careers across a wide range of pioneering and influential leadership roles in the public, private and third sectors.

The PhD with Integrated Study in Advanced Care is a novel, structured, thematic, cohort-based, programme of 48 months duration. Each PhD research project within the Academy has been devised by a supervisory team comprising academic staff from at least two of the three colleges within the University of Edinburgh. Each annual cohort of around twelve will include students with disciplinary backgrounds spanning from engineering and data science to humanities, social science, business and commerce, social work, medicine and related health and care professions. This unique level of diversity is a key attribute of our programme.



We will investigate how to use affordable, commercially available devices to measure older people's brain activity at home to assess their level of anxiety.


  1. Review the effects of anxiety on older people’s brain activity and the use of commercially available devices to sense brain activity unobtrusively.
  2. Design and put in place a protocol to acquire brain activity and anxiety scores from a selected population of older people.
  3. Apply robust-to-noise data science algorithms to assess the level of anxiety in older people from their brain waves at home.
  4. Inform current evidence-based interventions towards enabling their implementation via handheld devices (e.g., tablets) to reduce the level of anxiety of older people.


Older adults are vulnerable to mental health problems such as anxiety. These issues may have been exacerbated by recent lockdowns, and they have been linked to multimorbidity. Recent technological advances enable the recording of brain activity at home using convenient,  un-obstructive, affordable devices. This kind of device can track changes in older people’s brain activity related to emotional responses. We hypothesize this technology can be harness to enable the remote and personalised monitoring of anxiety in older people. This PhD provides an exciting opportunity to explore this topic and produce feasibility evidence to facilitate future remote interventions


We are specifically looking for applicants who will view their cutting-edge PhD research project in the context of the overall vision of the ACRC, who are keen to contribute to tackling a societal grand challenge and who can add unique value to – and derive great benefit from – training in a cohort comprising colleagues with a very diverse range of disciplines and backgrounds. We advise prospective candidates to engage in dialogue with the named project supervisor and/or the Director of the Academy prior to submitting an application. 


We are running a rolling recruitment process. Projects will be advertised until they are recruited to, and you are advised to apply as early as possible to maximise your chances.

Funding Notes

PhDs are funded with an enhanced stipend for the full 4 year period.
The call is open to candidates of any nationality but funded places for overseas nationals will be strictly limited to 4 international students who can apply for the highly competitive ACRC Global Scholarship.
It is essential to read the How to Apply section of our website before you apply:
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[1]Byers, A.L., et al."High occurrence of mood and anxiety disorders among older adults: The National Comorbidity Survey Replication." Arc. Gen.Psychiatry67.5 (2010): 489-496. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.35
[2]Wong, S.Y.S., et al."Impact of COVID-19 on loneliness, mental health, and health service utilisation: a prospective cohort study of older adults with multimorbidity in primary care." Br. J.Gen.Pract.70.700 (2020): e817-e824. doi:10.3399/bjgp20X713021
[3]Jones, S.M.W., et al."A psychometric examination of multimorbidity and mental health in older adults." AgingMent.Health20.3 (2016): 309-317.doi:10.1080/13607863.2015.1008988
[4]Sawangjai, P., et al."Consumer grade EEG measuring sensors as research tools: A review." IEEE Sens.J.20.8 (2019): 3996-4024.doi:10.1109/JSEN.2019.2962874
[5] Neale, C., et al."The aging urban brain: analyzing outdoor physical activity using the emotiv affectiv suite in older people." J.Urban Health94.6 (2017): 869-880. doi:10.1007/s11524-017-0191-9
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