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Investigating the effects of fatigue on sensorimotor control across the lifespan. Sport & Health Sciences, PhD Studentship (Funded)

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  • Full or part time
    Dr G Buckingham
    Prof T Carroll
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The University of Exeter and the University of Queensland are seeking exceptional students to join a world-leading, cross-continental research team tackling major challenges facing the world’s population in global sustainability and wellbeing as part of the QUEX Institute. The joint PhD programme provides a fantastic opportunity for the most talented doctoral students to work closely with world-class research groups and benefit from the combined expertise and facilities offered at the two institutions, with a lead supervisor within each university. This prestigious programme provides full tuition fees, stipend, travel funds and research training support grants to the successful applicants. The studentship provides funding for up to 42 months (3.5 years).

Ten generous, fully-funded studentships are available for the best applicants, 5 offered by the University of Exeter and 5 by the University of Queensland. This select group will spend at least one year at each University and will graduate with a joint degree from the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland.

Find out more about the PhD studentships www.exeter.ac.uk/quex/phds

Successful applicants will have a strong academic background and track record to undertake research projects based in one of the three themes of: Physical Activity and Nutrition; Healthy Ageing; and Environmental Sustainability.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 26 May 2018 (GMT), with interviews taking place between 25 June and 6 July 2018. The start date will be January 2019.

Please note that of the 10 Exeter led projects advertised, we expect that up to 5 studentships will be awarded.

Project Description
We interact with a range of objects every day, gripping and lifting them with forces which ensure they are rarely damaged or dropped. This skilled behaviour is not a consequence of effective online feedback and control mechanisms - we interact with objects in a predictive fashion, applying grip and load forces which reflect our prior expectations of object weight. This means that when an object has an unexpected weight, we will lift with incorrect forces, which are detected and subsequently corrected to ensure that our next interaction is smooth and efficient. This iteratively-adapting predictive behaviour is automatic and requires no conscious effort. Little is known, however, about what factors can disrupt this key dextrous skill.

Fatigue is a condition which can be induced through a range manipulations, which operate through distinct physiological mechanisms involving the central and peripheral nervous systems. Despite a range of studies investigating the physiological, neuromuscular, and cognitive consequences of fatigue, almost no work has examined the behavioural consequences of fatigue in terms of fingertip force control. This project will be undertaken in the context of healthy ageing, where extreme fatigue is a everyday occurrence induced by a range of commonplace activities, with potentially disastrous consequences to an individual’s health and wellbeing.

The experiments will examine the consequences of different types and levels of fatigue on fingertip force control during object interaction in young, middle-aged, and elderly adults. Over multiple trials, the participants will grip, lift, and report the felt heaviness of objects which vary in mass, size, and apparent material. Separate groups of individuals from each age group will be assigned to one of the following conditions where matched levels of distinct types of fatigue will be induced: (1) fatigue of the proximal arm muscles with shoulder press exercises; (2) fatigue of the hand musculature with gripper exercises; (3) central fatigue with a cycling test; and (4) cognitive fatigue with a challenging letter cancellation task. Across all groups, it is predicted that different types of fatigue will impair distinct aspects of the task, (e.g., fatigue of the proximal muscles will impact most upon rate of load force application whereas fatigue of hand musculature will affect rate of grip force application), and that these effects will interact with participant age. We will then examine individual differences in the physiological correlates of these impairments to underpin future intervention work in ageing populations.

How to Apply:
Clicking the ’Apply online’ button below will take you to the Exeter application system.

Funding Notes

Full tuition fees, stipend of £15,000 p.a, travel funds of up to £15,000, and RTSG of £15,000 are available over the 3.5 year studentship


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