Research students are welcomed to our Centre as valued members of our thriving, research-intensive community. Find out more about Research Degrees in Brunel. A research degree provides the opportunity to investigate a topic in depth, and contribute new knowledge to your discipline. We are particularly interested in supervising students' research in the following areas, but this list is not exaustive. Please feel free to contact a suitable member of staff with your own ideas linking to the general theme of the centre:
A selection of current proposed PhD projects
Underlying neuroscience of depression and loneliness and drug use and social policy
My research interests have always been within the field of psychiatry and I have a specific interest in depression and loneliness. My research has explored these conditions from a multi-disciplinary perspective (from molecular to clinical and epidemiology to social policy) thus I have experience with a wide variety of research approaches including experimental techniques, cognitive testing and the use of large databases. I am also interested in young people’s knowledge of the harms associated the use of legal and illegal drugs and stigma towards mental health. I would be very interested to supervise PhD projects that address any one of the following themes (i) investigating and understanding the cognitive processes underlying loneliness (ii) cognitive and reward biases in depression and at risk populations (iii) exploring young people’s knowledge of alcohol harms, particularly across different populations and cultures (iv) understanding the relationship between mental well-being and stigmatizing attitudes towards the mentally ill. I would be very interested to supervise PhD projects that address any one of the following themes (i) investigating and understanding the cognitive processes underlying loneliness (ii) cognitive and reward biases in depression and at risk populations (iii) exploring young people’s knowledge of alcohol harms, particularly across different populations and cultures (iv) understanding the relationship between mental well-being and stigmatizing attitudes towards the mentally ill.
Supervisor: Dr Survjit Cheeta
Learn to look: The role of predicted information in efficient perception
Humans have an astonishing ability to make good decisions in problems ranging from high-level decisions such as where to do their PhD, to low-level perceptual processes. Perception the most basic but also the most fun¬damental decision process, reﬂecting the brain’s constant effort to interpret ambiguous and noisy neural signals.
One aspect of perception is that it should be efﬁcient: processing of sensory input should be justified by increase in information. And not only intensity and duration of investment are crucial, but also their timing. What seems intuitive in economic terms is a fundamental question of cognitive ability: can our brains estimate how efﬁcient it is to process a stimulus at a given point in time? Does it use this estimate to allocate resources to the sensory input efﬁciently? Which signal is exploited to decide whether to invest more into processing of sensory evidence, rather than making a fast decision?
The project will consist of the development of a novel paradigm to test behavioural hypothesis concerning efficient exploitation of sensory input. The second focus lies on the neural computations underlying these decisions. We will use electroencephalogram recordings (EEG) to establish the neural markers for specific aspects of efficiency, attention, and confidence in decisions. We will cover novel ground in research on learning and perception!
The PhD candidate will learn how to program and analyse behavioural experiments, and how to record and analyse EEG data; it will offer the opportunity to get into computational neuroscience and make links with patient research. This project has a large potential for cooperation within the university as well as across multiple universities in the UK and Europe.
Supervisor: Dr Anne-Marike Schiffer
Mechanisms of Social Perception (Face recognition, Voice recognition, Emotion recognition)
I am interested in understanding the perceptual mechanisms that we use in our social interactions, such as how we recognise someone from their face or their voice, and how we recognise and respond to their emotion states. I use a variety of methods, including behavioural methods and functional neuroimaging. I am interested in supervising projects related to my areas of interest. Possible projects could involve investigating: (1) individuals with developmental or acquired impairments of face recognition (prosopagnosia) or voice recognition (phonagnosia), (2) individual differences in face and/or voice recognition, (3) how information from faces and voices is combined the brain.
Supervisor: Dr Lúcia Garrido
The functional neuroanatomical correlates of multitasking
Multitasking refers to doing two tasks at the same time, which usually results in severe performance decrements. In our research we aim to find out why these performance decrements occur and how they might be explained in terms of brain activity as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging. There are various projects available in this area, including projects crossing domains e.g. with working memory.
Supervisor: Dr Andre Szameitat
Constructing a stable world: how the brain uses gaze direction to disambiguate sensory information
When objects move in the real world, they create a wave of activity across the retina representing that movement. But the same effect could be achieved by moving our eyes across a static object. The brain hardly ever misinterprets these signals and is capable of producing a stable representation of the world around us. How does it achieve this? Studies suggest that signals that indicate the position of the eyes in the head are critically important in vision, allowing us to disambiguate the information inherent in the retinal image. But where are these signals found in the brain and how are they utilized? This project will explore the representation of eye-position (or gaze direction) in the human brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). A number of parietal and occipital brain areas have been implicated, and given the existence of multiple visual maps within these brain areas, this project will explore whether eye-position also exhibits some topographic organisation. Furthermore, in order to establish a more causal role that these eye-position signals may play in generating stable percepts of the world, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) will be utilised to temporarily disrupt activity in these areas and determine what effect they have on perception.
Supervisor: Dr Adrian Williams
Neural basis of perceptual expertise in sport
Functional neuroimaging studies in our laboratory have, over the last decade, identified neural correlates of perceptual expertise in sports including tennis, badminton, football and hockey. They have identified a consistent network of brain areas involved in tasks such as action prediction and the detection of deceptive moves. Sporting action is sufficiently structured to be amenable to experimental methods such as fMRI and EEG and is an ideal domain to explore fundamental and applied issues, such as the specificity versus generalisability of skills, the role of contextual information and selective attention, and the understanding of normal and deceptive actions and their consequences. Possible projects include: fMRI, MRS or EEG studies of a) domain specificity versus generality of skills, b) the role of contextual information in sporting expertise, c) the understanding of normal and deceptive actions and their consequences, d) inhibitory processes in action observation brain network of athletes.
Supervisor: Prof Michael Wright
Funding for doctoral studies
A number of studentships and other research funding opportunities are available at Brunel. Please see full list here: Research degree funding.
Choosing your supervisor
Our researchers create knowledge and advance understanding, and equip versatile graduates with the confidence to apply what they have learnt for the benefit of society. Browse the list of the members of our Theme to select your potential supervisor here. You are welcome to approach your potential supervisor directly to discuss your research interests.
All research degrees are administered by the Postgraduate Programmes Office in Colleges. Once you have identified your area of research and a potential supervisor, please use the contact details provided here for enquiries.
A selection of our current PhD projects
Current PhD Projects
| Title of thesis||Student name ||Supervision ||Description of project |
Anticipating others’ intensions: The role of probabilistic information in soccer
Primary and secondary supervisor
Primary: Dr Daniel Bishop
Secondary: Dr David Broadbent
External collaborators Prof. Mark Williams (University of Utah)
The project will investigate the relative effects of providing pre-performance probabilistic information (i.e., if ‘A’ occurs, then there is a certain probability that ‘B’ will occur) on skilled and less skilled players’ anticipation performance in soccer. By using concurrent measures of the players’ expectations and gaze behaviours as well as retrospective verbal reports of cognitive thoughts, an insight will be gained in the perceptual-cognitive processes underpinning their performance. Furthermore, the advantage of neuroscientific techniques will be applied to address the cognitive demands associated with these processes. Finally, the project will investigate various training methods in order to provide performance analysts and coaches with crucial understanding about how difference ways of delivering probabilistic information may affect their players.
Cortical and psychophysiological effects of sensory modulation on attentional switching during exercise
Primary and secondary supervisor: Drs Costas Karageorghis and Alexander Nowicky
Music-related interventions have been extensively used in the realm of sport and exercise sciences as a means by which to reallocate attentional focus towards environmental sensory cues, ameliorate the effects of fatigue-related symptoms, enhance exercise performance, and induce more positive affective responses. However, the brain mechanisms that underlie these responses are hitherto under-researched. This research programme was developed to further understanding of the cerebral and functional mechanisms that underlie the effects of auditory stimuli on psychophysiological responses during exercise-related situations.
the structure and content of neural representations of faces and voices in
person identity recognition using fMRI
| Maria Tsantani
Primary supervisor: Dr Lucia Garrido
Secondary supervisor: Dr Adrian Williams
| My project explores how the brain combines information from faces and voices to recognise familiar people, and where in the brain the different types of information are represented. Faces and voices are both key sources of non-verbal identity information (e.g. face shape, voice pitch, age, gender, body size, and personality). They also provide access to semantic information about a person in memory (e.g. name, relationship, overall positive/negative impression). How do our brains integrate the wealth of identity information extracted from faces and voices during person recognition? This project will aim to address this question by exploring the multisensory integration of face and voice information in the brain using a combination of fMRI and behavioural methods. We want to determine whether the information from faces and voices is combined in multimodal brain regions, and whether brain regions that process faces and voices separately ‘talk to each other’. We also want to determine which brain regions process the different types of information related to faces and voices.
|The role of executive
functions in working memory and dual-tasking
Primary and secondary supervisor: Dr. Andre Szameitat and Dr. Andrew Parton
| My main interest lies in how humans deal with the capability to do two things at the same time, e.g. multitasking. I use the psychological refractory period (PRP) combined with a working memory task to investigate this research question and use behavioural (reaction times, accuracy rates and recall performance) as well as neuroimaging techniques (fMRI). This research focuses on the executive control functions of memory in working memory and dual-tasking. The question is whether the executive functions that are needed in multitasking are the same as the executive functions needed in the context of working memory. Furthermore, I am also extremely interested in decision making and how it effects consumer behavior which are future research areas I wish to explore following my PhD.