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Towards a novel biomarker for pain: advanced analysis of oscillatory brain activity in healthy and chronic pain individuals


About This PhD Project

Project Description

• Basic Funding details – Full time Home/EU fees and a stipend of £15,009 p.a.
• Application deadline – Tuesday 7th May 2019
• Start date – October 2019
• Duration – 3 years full-time
• Location – Department of Psychology and Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester, Essex, UK.

Overview:


The present proposal focuses on electroencephalography (EEG) oscillations as a brain biomarker of pain, both in healthy individuals and chronic-pain patients. This project is a step forward as it proposes to study whether EEG oscillations can: (a) predict the unpleasantness of prolonged pain in healthy individuals and (b) predict ongoing pain in chronic patients. The project’s impact stems from the combined use of psychophysiological and mathematical tools to study EEG data (i.e. advanced machine learning, brain network theory and connectivity analysis – see figure below for an example of data analysis approach) of healthy individuals and chronic-pain patients. The collaboration with Prof. Bhaskar Dasgupta (Consultant lead of Rheumatology and Clinical Director of Research & Audit, Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Essex) will provide us with data from a large pool of patients.

Detailed funding information – The award consists of a full Home/EU fee waiver or equivalent fee discount for overseas students (see https://www1.essex.ac.uk/fees-and-funding/research/default.aspx for further fee details), a doctoral stipend equivalent to the Research Councils UK National Minimum Doctoral Stipend (£15,009 in 2019-20), plus £2,500 training bursary via Proficio funding, which may be used to cover the cost of advanced skills training including conference attendance and travel.

Supervisors


Overview: The lead supervisor is an expert in pain science and the study of brain activity by means of EEG while Dr Antonopoulos is an expert in computational neuroscience and network inference. The co-supervisor will provide support and guide the student through the most advanced data processing aspects of the work. In combination, they will train the student in literature review, experiment design, data interpretation and EEG data collection, advanced machine learning and network inference.

Primary supervisor
Dr Elia Valentini - Lecturer in Psychology and brain sciences, Department of Psychology
Dr Elia Valentini has been at the University of Essex since September 2015, where he is teacher and researcher at the Department of Psychology and Centre for Brain Science (CBS). His current research investigates how people perceive negative valence information, how they interpret both physical and psychological events as threatening. Current projects involve measuring electroencephalography and other psychophysiological measures, subjective reports (i.e. from sensory ratings to personality questionnaires), cognitive and behavioural performance in a multisensory setting. He has published 35 papers in international journals. His h-index is 16 and has 765 citations to his work.

Co-supervisor
Dr Chris Antonopoulos MIMA - Lecturer in Applied Mathematics, Department of Mathematical Sciences
Dr Chris Antonopoulos has been at the University of Essex since September 2015, where he is involved in teaching students from the Department of Mathematical Sciences and Essex Business School, as well as carrying out research in applied mathematics, dynamical systems, chaos theory, complex systems and networks, and computational neuroscience. He has published 35 papers in international journals and 8 papers in conference proceedings and chapters in books. His h-index is 16 and has 915 citations to his work.

Criteria:


The successful candidate should possess (i) a Master level with relevant experience in the analysis of multivariate psychological and physiological data, (ii) good skills in programming (particularly Matlab and Python) and advanced statistical analyses, (iii) strong motivation for the project and its basic and applied health-related aspects, (iv) excellent organizational and communication skills.
Desirable criteria: (i) Proficiency in English language, (ii) knowledge of available EEG data analysis tools, (iii) experience on EEG source localization and connectivity analyses.

Candidates will be asked to provide:
• Transcripts
• Covering letter and detailed CV
• Personal statement
• One reference letter

For more information and details on how to apply please follow this link https://www.essex.ac.uk/postgraduate-research-degrees/opportunities/towards-a-novel-biomarker-for-pain

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