PhD Studentship - Associative Binding Training – A Novel Avenue for Enhancing Cognitive Abilities?

University of Sheffield

Fully Funded PhD Scholarship in Psychology at the University of Sheffield

This is one of many projects in competition for the current funding opportunities available within the Department of Psychology

Project title: Associative binding training – a novel avenue for enhancing cognitive abilities?

Primary supervisor: Claudia Von Bastian

Project description: Recent studies and meta-analyses have questioned the effectiveness of cognitive (or ‘brain’) training in enhancing cognitive abilities such as reasoning (e.g., Simons et al., 2016). However, only few interventions targeted the specific cognitive mechanisms assumed to underlie both the practiced and the non-practiced tasks. This project therefore aims at investigating the plasticity of a mechanism that builds the foundation of both episodic and working memory, but is also critical to reasoning abilities: associative binding. In a past study, we indeed found that associative binding training yielded generalised performance improvements in older adults (Zimmermann et al., 2016), but other studies using similar approaches did not find such promising effects, neither in older (Bellander et al., 2017) nor in younger adults (De Simoni & von Bastian, under review). In this project, the PhD student will try to identify the possible reasons for these inconsistencies and further investigate the potential of associative binding training to improve cognitive abilities. As associative binding is particularly affected by cognitive aging (e.g., Old & Naveh-Benjamin, 2008), this project allows for (but does not necessarily require) working with individuals across the lifespan. 


Bellander, M., Eschen, A., Lövden, M., Martin, M., Bäckman, L., & Brehmer, Y. (2017). No evidence for improved associative memory performance following process-based associative memory training in older adults. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 8, 326. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2016.00326

De Simoni, C., & von Bastian, C. C. (under review). No evidence for effects of updating and binding training on working memory capacity and efficiency. Manuscript available upon request.

Old, S. R., & Naveh-Benjamin, M. (2008). Differential effects of age on item and associative measures of memory: A meta-analysis. Psychology and Aging, 23, 104–118.

Simons, D. J., Boot, W. R., Charness, N., Gathercole, S. E., Chabris, C. F., Hambrick, D. Z., & Stine-Morrow, E. A. L. (2016). Do “Brain-Training” programs work? Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 17(3), 103-186. doi: 10.1177/1529100616661983

Zimmermann, K., von Bastian, C. C., Martin, M., Roecke, C., & Eschen, A. (2016). Transfer effects after process-based object-location memory training in healthy older adults. Psychology and Aging, 31(7), 798–814. doi: 10.1037/pag0000123

Start date: 1 October 2018

Requirements: Applicants must have a minimum of a first class or high upper second-class undergraduate honours degree and a distinction or high merit at Masters level in psychology or a related discipline.

Funding: Tuition fees £4,194 per year Living Expenses £14,500.00

Science Graduate School

As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you'll be part of the Science Graduate School. You'll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You'll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience the breadth of technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit to learn more.

For further details and the application process please visit:

Closing date for applications is 5pm Wednesday 24 January 2018

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