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Physical exercise as a cure for age-related declines in cognitive language skills and the underlying brain mechanisms

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Katrien Segaert
    Dr L Wheeldon
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Awaiting Funding Decision/Possible External Funding
    Awaiting Funding Decision/Possible External Funding

Project Description

The aim of this PhD project is to determine whether physical exercise is a cure to counter age-related declines in language and communication skills.
Healthy ageing is associated with declines in cognitive functioning. These declines are apparent in memory, learning, executive functioning and even language and communication skills. In fact, language skills are particularly vulnerable to age-related decline because this cognitive function crucially relies on the frontal and temporal cortex of the brain, where extensive age-related brain atrophy takes place.
It has been established that engaging in physical activity improves cognitive health in elderly (particularly memory and learning), but the effects on language and communication, skills which are crucial to maintaining good social interactions, have not been investigated.

The project will include a randomised controlled physical exercise intervention program for elderly participants, with a maximal oxygen uptake test of physical fitness before and after the intervention program. Pre- and post-intervention measures on a wide range of language skills (speaking and listening, word-level and sentence-level language processes) will quantify the effects of physical exercise on cognitive functioning. You will use behavioural measurements to map out language performance and cognitive neuroimaging (EEG, fMRI or NIRS) to map out the underlying brain mechanisms of performance improvements due to physical exercise. The outcomes of this project will be informative for healthy policy in the elderly population.
We offer a highly challenging multidisciplinary research project for the duration of four years, state-of-the-art research facilities and excellent supervision.

We are looking for a highly talented and dedicated PhD student with a (nearly completed) Master’s degree in a field related to psychology (e.g., psychology, cognitive neuroscience, biology, medicine). Experience with experimental methods (e.g., programming in E-Prime, Presentation, Matlab) is strongly encouraged. Experience with cognitive neuroscience techniques (EEG or fMRI) is desirable. The candidate will need to work well independently as well as within a team, have excellent communication skills and be proficient in English.

For further information about this project, please contact Dr. Katrien Segaert. Email address: [Email Address Removed].

Funding Notes

Self-funded students may wish to apply.

There are a number of currently open competitive studentship schemes at the University of Birmingham, and students are welcome to discuss their eligibility for these with the supervisor or the PG Admissions Tutor.

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 40.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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