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Personalized quantification and prediction of epilepsy surgery on seizure control and memory function

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, November 25, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

The University of Bristol is offering a 3.5 year full time PhD in research around Translational Health to start in 2020. This studentship is funded through GW4 BioMed MRC Doctoral Training Partnership. It consists of full UK/EU tuition fees, as well as a Doctoral Stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum (£15,009 p.a. for 2019/20, updated each year). Additional research training and support funding of up to £5,000 per annum is also available.

Additional funding for research and training is available over the course of the programme. This will cover costs such as research consumables, courses, conferences and travel. Additional competitive funds are available for high-cost training/research.

The studentship will be based at Bristol Medical School although the successful applicant will be supervised by a team including Dr Denize Atan (Clinical/Basic Neuroscience, Bristol), Dr Jiaxiang Zhang (Neuroimaging, Cardiff), Dr Mark Goodfellow, Dr Marinho Lopes and Professor Adam Zeman (Computational Modelling and Clinical Neurology, Exeter).

For further information please see the website below.


Epilepsy is a severely disabling and life-threatening neurological disorder costing the NHS £1.5billion yearly. It affects 1% of the UK population and 50 million people worldwide. Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is one of the most common forms of epilepsy. TLE involves the hippocampus, located in the medial temporal lobes, so memory problems are common in TLE patients. Epilepsy surgery to the temporal lobes is also likely to affect memory function, which can have greater impact on quality of life than seizures.

Aim and approach:

This project will develop cross-cutting and truly interdisciplinary skills in imaging (MRI, automated quantitative analysis of MRI scans, hippocampal subfields and histology), behavioural memory tests (cognitive neuroscience), computational modelling (mathematics, engineering, computational neuroscience), histological analysis (quantitative staining and analysis) and in vivo science (clinical neurology, neurosurgery, epilepsy) to predict the outcome of epilepsy surgery on (i) memory and (ii) seizures.

Building on previous work by the research team, we will recruit TLE patients for 7T MRI at the state-of-the-art imaging facility at the CUBRIC, Cardiff, to map the hippocampus before and after surgery. Memory function will be correlated to hippocampal cell loss: inferred from MRI scans and directly compared with actual hippocampal histology of postsurgical samples. Additionally, we will further advance our existing computational methods to predict the effect of surgery on seizures (Lopes et al 2017; Goodfellow et al 2016). Currently, these methods use EEG recordings; converting signals to brain networks and using mathematical models to simulate the effects of surgery in these networks. The data we collect during this project will allow us to improve these models, taking into account structural connections within the brain and the effect that variation in hippocampal cell numbers has on local excitability of brain tissue.


The student will benefit from cutting edge facilities and a large critical mass of like-minded research scientists at GW4 partners in Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter. Bristol is the main adult epilepsy surgery centre in South England & Wales and host of the Institute of Clinical Neurosciences (ICN) and Functional Neurosurgery group; Cardiff hosts the CUBRIC, a MRC-funded 7T MRI facility with close partnerships in MRI physics (Siemens, MRC cross-UK 7T network), small animal imaging (Cardiff Experimental Centre), translational neuroscience (Cardiff Neuroscience& Mental Health Research Institute) and molecular neurology (MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics); and Exeter houses the Wellcome Trust Centre for Biomedical Modelling and Analysis and EPSRC Centre for Predictive Modelling in Healthcare which together create a large community of researchers focused on the application of mathematics to understand biology in health and disease, especially neuroscience applications like epilepsy.

There will be many opportunities to disseminate research findings via local seminars, national & international conferences, publications and public engagement and to work with the team’s established collaborators. Working with industry and our existing international network of clinicians, our tools could also be used to test novel therapies for epilepsy.

Candidate requirements:

Applications are welcome from high performing individuals across a wide range of disciplines closely related to biomedical sciences, mathematics and computer science who have, or are expected to obtain, a 2.1 or higher degree. Applications are particularly welcome from individuals with a relevant research Masters degree.

How to apply:

Please make an online application for this project here:

Contact: Dr Denize Atan ( )
Closing date : November 25th, 5pm

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