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Funded PhD Opportunity

Visual and ocular side effects of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication in children and adults/Healthy Communities.

Subject: Biomedical Sciences


Summary

Across the Western world an increasing trend has been observed in the prescribing of medication to manage conditions such as ADHD, particularly in young males. In the UK, an 800% increase was observed in the prescribing of methylphenidate, dexamphetamine/lisdexamphetamine and atomoxetine between 1995-2015 for ADHD (Renoux et al 2016).  This dramatic increase has been associated with an increase in the number of patients diagnosed with ADHD during this period.  A wide range of systemic side effects are associated with these medications including effects on the visual system.

Limited data exist describing the ocular side effects of these medications and there are suggestions that methylphenidate (most commonly prescribed medication for ADHD, also branded as Ritalin or Concerta) is associated with reduced accommodation (poor focusing leading to reduced near vision), pupil dilation and dry eye in addition to an increased risk of angle closure glaucoma (Larrañaga-Fragoso et al 2015, Tractman 1992, Whitman et al 1997). In one month (August 2017) in NI, 3749 prescriptions for methylphenidate were issued by GPs. It is not clear however, if these were issued for adults or children, however, this medication is licensed only for ADHD and it is likely that a large proportion of these prescriptions were for individuals under 16 years.  In addition to the problems associated with education in children with ADHD, the side effects of medication could compound behavioural problems impacting further on their education.

The proposed project aims to provide comprehensive visual assessments of children and adults with a diagnosis of ADHD who have been prescribed medication and compare those findings with an age and diagnosis matched group who are not taking prescribed medication in addition to a typically developing control group.

These findings will help parents, teachers and children themselves make informed decisions regarding this controversial treatment. It will allow parents, educators and eye professionals of those children who have been prescribed these medications to ensure any visual problems associated are addressed preventing poor near vision impacting on learning.

In order to further investigate the impact of this medication, additional measures of severity of key symptoms and behaviours, such as hyperactivity, conduct disorder, defiance disorder, and  depression and anxiety, will be conducted with all participants,  using the Vanderbilt ADHD Diagnostic Rating Scale (VADRS - Wolraich, et al., 2003) and The Connors 3rd Edition (Connors et al. 2011). Both these psychological assessment tools, completed by parents and teachers of children aged 6-18 years, are designed to measure the severity of ADHD symptoms, and comorbid behaviours such as oppositional defiance disorder and conduct disorder, as well as learning problems, peer relationships and family relationships.

The research questions to be addressed are:

(1) How does the prescribing rate of methylphenidate in NI compare with that in other parts of the UK.

(2) Do children and adults prescribed methylphenidate for ADHD have a similar visual status to those with the condition who have not been prescribed medication?

(3) If visual anomalies are present, could near vision intervention improve visual behaviours?

(4) Does the presence of near vison abnormalities affect symptom and co-morbid behaviour severity?

The applicant must be a GOC registered optometrist.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%
  • Research project completion within taught Masters degree or MRES
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Kieran O'Donnell

My experience has been great and the people that I have worked with have been amazing

Kieran O'Donnell - 3D printing of biological cells for tissue engineering applications

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Profile picture of Michelle Clements Clements

Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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Profile picture of William Crowe

Throughout my PhD I’ve been provided with continuous support and guidance by my supervisors and the staff at the University.I’ve also received many opportunities to further enhance my professional development in the form of teaching experience and presenting my work at conferences which will aid in my pursuit of a career in academia or industry.

William Crowe


Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 18 February 2019

Interview Date
Weeks commencing 11, 18, 25 March 2019


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Coleraine campus

Coleraine campus
The feeling of community at our Coleraine campus makes for a warm and welcoming student experience.


Contact supervisor

Dr Julie McClelland


Other supervisors

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