This opportunity is now closed.

Funded PhD Opportunity

The impact of younger stroke

Subject: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience


Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability, with over 1.2 million people living with the physical and psychosocial consequences of stroke in the UK.  Although the average age of stroke is 71, this age has fallen in recent years and every year a third of all strokes are in people aged 20-64 (Stroke Association, 2019; Feigin et al, 2014).  Stroke at all ages can have a significant impact on individuals. But this impact may be higher in younger adults due to increased demands due to jobs, family responsibilities and financial consequences, associated with this age group (Ellis et al, 20210; Rutten-Jacobs et al, 2013). Despite this growing population of younger individuals post stroke, there is very limited evidence on any effect age may have on recovery and rehabilitation.  The way the brain recovers may be different as we age, therefore the rehabilitation needs of younger and older stroke survivors could be different.  This is important factor as the underlying biological (brain) correlates of recovery are associated with improved functional recovery and increased understanding of these mechanisms allows clinicians to target these deficits in rehabilitation. The lack of research in this area leds to the need for a holistic approach considering the biological, neurophysiological and psychosocial recovery of younger stroke survivors. This PhD aims to understand the needs of younger stroke survivors and to investigate the neurological recovery mechanisms.

PhD Plan:

The PhD project will begin with a systematic review on the biological and neurophysiological recovery in young stroke survivors, investigating any differences between younger and older stroke survivors; any age differences in response to stroke rehabilitation interventions. This review will explore potential neurological recovery using data from neuroimaging, neurophysiological and neuropsychology studies. Alongside the systematic review, in order to understand the specific needs of younger stroke survivors, an online survey will be distributed with a series of focus groups on aspects highlighted through the survey for example return to work; having a young family and being a stroke survivor.

The third part of the programme will build on the information from the review and highlighted by the stroke survivors, to build an experimental study to investigate neural recovery in young stroke survivors. In order to ensure younger stroke survivors have the best possible recovery, it is essential that we understand the recovery mechanisms of the brain and how we capitalise on these.  This will involve a case series design, in which a group of younger stroke survivors will complete a battery of outcome measures including neurophysiological, clinical and psychosocial measures to characterise their recovery profile. These will include measures of neuroplasticity/ brain excitability, brain connectivity and muscle activity measured by Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). The student will have use of the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab on Coleraine campus.

Participants will be recruited from Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke (NICHS) young stroke support group and Northern Ireland Stroke Association.

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.
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • A demonstrable interest in the research area associated with the studentship

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.

  • Hold a Masters degree in Psychology or related area
  • Recognition of the importance of research integrity and Open Science practices


    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:

    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:

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University


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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Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
18 + 19 + 20 March 2020


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Coleraine campus

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

Contact supervisor

Dr Niamh Kennedy

Other supervisors

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