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PhD in Psychology: Towards a mechanistic understanding of why age increases the behaviourally impairing effects of inflammation on the brain

Key facts

Application deadline 30 June 2019
Start date 01/10/2019
Duration 3 years
Level of study Postgraduate research
Award type PhD studentship
Number of studentships 1

This project offers an outstanding opportunity for a talented PhD student to join an internationally leading group investigating how inflammation in the body acts on the brain to impair human mood, motivation and cognition.


We all know what it means to feel sick. Infection anywhere in the body triggers an inflammatory response, and by actions on the brain, induces a cluster of mood, motivational and cognitive changes known collectively as 'sickness behaviour'.

Fortunately, sickness symptoms such as fatigue, low mood and impaired memory are usually very mild and self-limiting. However, when the immune response is severe or chronic, it can trigger mental-health disorders like depression and accelerate memory decline in Alzheimer’s.

Project aims and methods

This study aims to clarify why older people appear more susceptible to the cognitive and motivationally impairing effects of inflammation. We will do this by combining advanced brain imaging (MRI and F-DOPA PET), bespoke cognitive tasks and immune analyses before and after carefully controlled immune challenges that briefly activate the immune system.

Recognition that actions of the immune system on the brain can profoundly alter behaviour has motivated development of novel drugs for use in mental health. Results from the current study will play an important role in helping inform this development, ultimately benefitting people suffering from some of the most common and serious mental illnesses.

The School of Psychology is one of the largest and most successful in the UK and we are dedicated to providing a dynamic and stimulating learning environment informed by our leading research in psychology and neuroscience.

Our excellent standard of research and teaching has been recognised in every research assessment exercise. Our facilities offer unique opportunities for complementary and collaborative studies across methodologies to address novel research questions.

Our research labs are equipped with the state-of-the-art facilities to address key questions of basic and clinical neuroscience, and our research facilities include one of Europe’s most powerful brain scanners, as well as a purpose-built environment for patients and volunteers taking part in medical research and clinical trials.



Clair Southard

Administrative contact

Funding details

Tuition fee support Full UK/EU tuition fees
Maintenance stipend Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum
Additional funding offered All School of Psychology students receive conference and participant money (approx. £2250 for the duration of the studentship). They also receive a computer, office space and access to courses offered by the University’s Doctoral Academy and become members of the University Doctoral Academy.

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.

Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. To be eligible for the full award, EU Nationals must have been in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the course for which they are seeking funding, including for the purposes of full-time education. EU Nationals who do not meet the above residency requirement are eligible for a fees only award, provided that they have been ordinarily resident in the EU for at least 3 years prior to the start of their proposed programme of study.


Clair Southard

Administrative contact

Consideration is automatic upon application for admission to the Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology with an October 2019 start date.

Please include your CV and a personal statement in support of your application.

In the "Research proposal and Funding" section of your online application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project and copy the project description in the text box provided.

Please select “No, I am not self-funding my research” when asked whether you are self-funding your research.

Please add ‘PhD in Psychology: Towards a mechanistic understanding of why age increases the behaviourally impairing effects of inflammation on the brain' when asked "Please provide the name of the funding you are applying for".

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


Clair Southard

Administrative contact

Join us on Friday 5 July to find out more about postgraduate funding opportunities for September 2019.

Eligible research programmes