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The effect of age and risk of falling on walking: A holistic approach to human movement analysisEntry Awaiting Update by Supervisor

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, January 31, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The University of Exeter (UoE) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore are offering six fully funded postgraduate studentships to undertake collaborative research projects at the two institutions, leading to PhD degrees (split-site) to be conferred either by the UoE or NTU.

Students pursuing these postgraduate research projects will benefit from the unique opportunity to conduct their research at both institutions. Students will be registered at one or other institution, where they will be based for the majority of their time, but will spend at least 12 and not more than 18 months at the partner institution over the duration of the programme. The frequency and length of stays at each institution will be agreed with successful candidates prior to offers being made.

All six projects are advertised concurrently at both institutions and three will be allocated to each institution after the deadline has passed, based on a collaborative decision made between the UoE and NTU. The final decision on the successful applicant for each project will be made by the institution hosting the project. Project allocation will be based on the applicant’s best fit to a project, following a review of applications submitted to each institution. Applications to undertake the projects at the UoE and NTU are open to all nationalities.

The programme start dates are August 2019 for NTU and September 2019 for UoE.
The home institution will determine the regulations that will apply to the successful applicant. The student’s main supervisor will be based at the home institution.

Project Description:

The prevalence of falls among our ageing population presents a huge social and multi-billon dollar challenge to the UK and Singapore in the 21st century It is estimated that 1 in 3 people older than 65 years fall at least once a year. The human cost of falling is detriment to quality of life and societal contribution through injury and loss of independence. The economic cost associated with these falls is £2.3 billion per year to the NHS. We live in an ageing population; by 2035 it is estimated that 23% of our populations will be over 65 years of age, meaning that the social and economic cost associated with falls will continue to increase. Innovative and scientifically grounded responses to this problem are required. Underpinned by the contemporary dynamical systems theory of motor control this thesis will develop and evaluate novel exercise interventions to provide innovative responses to reducing falls in the elderly.

Initially, the thesis will examine how the dynamics of walking technique differs with age and increased risk of falling. Four participant groups from both sites (18-23, 45-52, and 65-70 years at low-risk and high-risk of falling) will walk while body movements and ground-reaction forces are recorded. Two novel characteristics of walking technique that demonstrate a dynamical-systems approach to movement analysis will be examined. “Coordination” will capture groups of body segments that move in-time with each other4. “Smoothness” will be examined via spectral analysis of ground-reaction forces. It is hypothesised that with age and risk of falling fewer coordinated actions will present, and lower-frequency, higher-amplitude ground contacts will occur.

In part 2 of the thesis, differences found between age and risk of falling groups will provide evidence-based support to develop a novel intervention to improve coordination and smoothness, and subsequently reduce the risk of falling. Specifically, the intervention will be based on the coordination of multi-joint actions.
During the final thesis studies the novel intervention will be evaluated in order to examine its effectiveness in mitigating the effects of ageing on walking and falling prevalence in comparison to currently existing techniques.

The thesis will demonstrate scientific excellence and have high impact:
• in academia, pioneering the application of contemporary motor control theory to practice towards 4* REF highly cited publications;
• in society, impacting health in our aging societies with a specific focus on walking and risk of falling;
• on the UK and Sinaporean economies; in reducing costs associated with the prevalence of falls in our ageing populations, and in improving the societal contribution of our aging population through sustained health with age;
• on our University economies, underpinning further external income to fund associated projects.

To apply please visit

Funding Notes

3 year studentship providing tuition fees and an annual stipend allowance at Research Council rates, currently £14,777 per year for 2018-19

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