PhD in Psychology: Electrophysiological studies of memory control

Key facts

Application deadline 23 February 2018
Start date 1 October 2018
Duration 3 years
Level of study Postgraduate research
Award type PhD studentship
Number of studentships 1

Many of the stimuli that we encounter in everyday life have associations with the past.

There are many people who we meet, places that we pass and items that we see or use that would be excellent cues for events from our personal past. For example, when you look at your watch to tell the time you could recover details of the episode when it was given to you as a gift.

However, these memories typically do not come to mind. Given the abundance of cues that we are confronted with, it is perhaps surprising that we are not constantly reminiscing. What this demonstrates is that having a cue and a relevant past experience does not guarantee the recovery of information.

According to Tulving (1983) in order for an individual to remember a particular episode, they need to enter a cognitive state where stimulus events are treated as episodic memory cues, known as retrieval mode.

Our recent research demonstrates that the neural index of retrieval mode, which can be measured prior to the participant making a memory decision, can predict memory performance. The focus of this PhD would be to continue this research on retrieval mode and the beneficial effects it has on memory retrieval.

It would also be possible to conduct experiments concerning the other side of the coin - the ability to disengage retrieval mode and the consequences of involuntary retrieval if a participant failed to do so. This is another important question to address because it would be confusing and inefficient if people continued to treat stimuli as cues for episodic retrieval, when this was not required for the task.

The outcome of this PhD would be fundamental insights into the delicate balance that has to be struck by the memory system, between remembering information which is required for the task at hand and stopping remembering so that we are not inundated with unwanted or task-inappropriate memories.

The work that has been conducted in this area has tended to use neuroimaging techniques, due to the difficulty in studying cognitive states using behavioural measures alone. To examine these research questions EEG will be the main method used.

However there will be scope to use other neuroimaging technologies that are available at CUBRIC, such as fMRI, MEG and brain stimulation.

This project will be supervised by Dr Lisa Evans.

Funding details

Tuition fee support Full UK/EU tuition fees
Maintenance stipend Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum

Eligibility criteria

Residency UK Research Council eligibility conditions apply
Academic criteria

As only one studentship is available and a very high standard of applications is typically received, the successful applicant is likely to have a very good first degree (a First or Upper Second class BSc Honours or equivalent) and/or be distinguished by having relevant research experience.

Consideration is automatic on applying for a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology with a start date of 1 October 2018.

In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisor of this project and copy the project description in the text box provided.

In the funding section, please select 'I will be applying for a scholarship/grant' and specify that you are applying for advertised funding from the School.

You should also send a CV and covering letter to Dr Lisa Evans.

We reserve the right to close applications early should sufficient applications be received.

Scholarships available worth £3,000 each for UK/EU students starting a master’s degree in September 2018.

Eligible research programmes