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The role of the circadian rhythms and nutritional intake on medical decision making

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, March 02, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Introduction: Humans have a circadian pacemaker in the brain that regulates physiological and behavioural functions over 24 hour periods. This “body clock” promotes the different functions of the daily cycles, such as sleeping and waking, body temperature regulation, digestion, and performance capabilities. Disrupting this circadian rhythm through sleep deprivation, inconsistent sleeping patterns, or extended alertness degrades performance capability (Rosekind et al., 1997). At present there is little research conducted into the role of the circadian rhythms, the impact of sleep patterns, and the timing of food intake on those cognitive performance factors that underpin medical decision-making.

Aims: The aims of this PhD programme are to investigate the relationship between circadian timing of nutritional intake and medical decision making.

Methods: The relationship between circadian timing of food intake and the attentional and cognitive processes underlying medical decision making will be explored using eye tracking and electroencephalograms (EEG). The research studies will involve lab experiments whereby actigraphs will be used to measure circadian rhythms and sleep patterns over a 7-day period. Data on daily timing of food intake will be measured via meal logs inputted on participants’ mobile phones. Information on body composition and melatonin release will also be collected. Participants are required to complete computer-based assessments that probe attentional deployment and cognitive performance using combined eye tracking and EEG methods. The results will be used to understand the link between circadian timing of food intake and the neurocognitive functions known to underpin medical decision making (i.e. executive control, visual perceptual skills). The second phase will involve the systematic control of the timing of food intake across a 7-day period, in order to test for effects of circadian related timing of food intake on cognitive performance.

Outcomes: The outcomes of this PhD programme will provide a new framework for understanding the relationship between circadian rhythms and food intake for medical students and health professionals, as well as identifying potential new ways of reducing fatigue related effects on medical decision-making.

Funding Notes

Applications should be made directly to Dr Judith Lunn and should include:

CV (max 2 A4 sides), including details of two academic references
A cover letter outlining your qualifications and interest in the studentship (max 2 A4 sides)

How good is research at Lancaster University in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 64.40

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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