PhD Studentship: Dopamine, Social Cognition and Bodily Movement: Unpacking a Complex Relationship (ERC-Funded)

University of Birmingham - School of Psychology

Studentship start date: 13th January 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter.


Applications are invited for a fully-funded (fees + stipend) Ph.D. to begin in January 2018. The candidate will work with Dr. Jennifer Cook ( on a European Research Council (ERC)-funded project on the relationship between social cognition, bodily movement and function of the dopaminergic neurotransmitter system (ERC-StG-Brain2Bee).

Project description:

Studies of Parkinson’s Disease have typically focused on difficulties with bodily movement (e.g. difficulties with walking), and studies of Autism have tended to focus on social cognition. The co-occurrence of social and movement symptoms is thus critically underappreciated; Parkinson’s Disease patients exhibit social symptoms, and motor challenges (e.g. difficulties with handwriting) are common in Autism. At present, the biological basis of co-occurring social and motor symptoms is unclear. Notably, both Autism and Parkinson’s Disease have been associated with atypicalities in the function of the dopaminergic neurotransmitter system. This Ph.D. project aims to improve understanding of the complex relationship between social cognition, bodily movement and the dopamine system. This aim will be achieved using psychopharmacology studies and behavioural training in typical individuals and in those with Autism or Parkinson’s Disease. Results from this package of work will help us to move closer to a cross-disorder understanding of factors underlying variation in social and motor ability.

Research will be conducted at the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham ( which is one of the largest and most successful psychology departments in the UK, currently ranked in the top 5 (REF 2014).

The Candidate:


  • at least a 2.1 in first degree
  • a high level of motivation
  • excellent interpersonal and organisational skills
  • basic knowledge of statistics
  • English language proficiency
  • willingness to work as part of an interdisciplinary team

Desirable (but not essential):

  • first degree (Bachelors) in Psychology/Cognitive Neuroscience /Clinical Neuroscience/ Neuroimaging or a related field
  • experience of behavioural experimental methods (e.g. via an undergraduate project, or through volunteering in a lab.)
  • experience working with a clinical population
  • ability to communicate complex information clearly
  • evidence of being able to disseminate research findings (e.g. via a talk/journal publication/poster presentation/journal club participation)
  • basic programming skills (e.g. Matlab)

Application procedure:

International Students from outside the EU may apply, but may be liable for the difference between UK/EU and International (Overseas) tuition fees. 

Prospective candidates are required to apply using the University of Birmingham on-line application system. Candidates should submit a personal statement, CV, 2 references, and transcript of grades. 

A copy of the on-line application form and guidance notes can be found at the following website: 

Please indicate in the funding section that this is an ERC-funded studentship and e-mail to indicate you have applied. 

After shortlisting, applicants that have progressed to the next stage will be invited for an interview with Dr. Cook. In order to prepare for the interview candidates should think about a) their motivation for applying, b) ways in which their previous experience has prepared them, and c) other experiences / personality characteristics will help them in their Ph.D studies.

Further Information:

For more information please contact Dr. Jennifer Cook,

For enquiries about the application process please contact (Tel: +44(0)121 414 2864/4906)

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Midlands of England