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PhD Studentship: In Psychology: Cannabis, Tobacco and Psychiatric Disease: Examining the Impact of Single and Combined-use on Brain Structure and Function (MRC Funded)

University of Bath - Department of Psychology

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Bath
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £15,285 p.a
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 23rd September 2020
Closes: 23rd November 2020

Theme: Neuroscience & Mental Health

Funding for: UK and EU Students

Funding amount: £15,285 p.a. in living costs (current rates), travel grant (£300 p.a.), plus research training support (£5,000 p.a.) and home tuition fees.

Closes: 23rd November 2020

Lead supervisor: Dr Gemma Taylor, Department of Psychology, University of Bath,

Co-supervisors: Dr Tom Freeman, Dr Esther Walton, Dr Tom Lancaster (Bath), and Dr Chris Dodds, Professor Celia Morgan (Exeter) 

This PhD project will ask:

Can we isolate the relationships between cannabis use, tobacco use and psychiatric disease through triangulation of data from cohort studies and brain imaging studies, and across statistical methods that differ in their ability to make causal links?


Cannabis is gaining increasing acceptance as a medicinal and recreational drug and prevalence of use is rising worldwide. There are concerns about the association between cannabis and tobacco with risk of psychiatric disease, including severe and chronic disorders such as psychosis. The association between cannabis and psychiatric disease may be confounded by tobacco-use.

We propose an innovative approach to explore the impact of single- and combined-use of tobacco and cannabis on brain function and structure, between people with and without psychiatric illness (anxiety, depression, psychosis).

International impact:

Understanding the impact of single and combined use on brain regions will inform conclusions about the influence of these substances on psychiatric disease, and will have important policy implications, in the UK and around the globe.

Aims and method:

  • Study 1: Systematic review and meta-analysis of imaging studies exploring the association between cannabis, tobacco use and psychiatric disease.
  • Study 2: A cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis using pre-existing data from cohort studies with imaging data (IMAGEN, UK Biobank) to examine the association between dual and single cannabis/tobacco use and its impact on brain structure and function.
  • Study 3: The student will collect novel data via fMRI. Results from Study 2 will determine a-priori regions of interest used in this study.


The student will learn advanced, cutting-edge data science methods, combining data from complex cohort studies with neuroimaging data. There will be opportunity to explore other advanced methods, i.e., marginal structural modelling. The student will acquire skills in cleaning and analysis of complex cohort data and programming skills in multiple languages.

The student will have access to the new, world-class MRI Research Centre at Exeter, where they will learn to collect and analyse fMRI data ( The student will also join the Addiction and Mental Health Group at Bath ( and Exeter’s Translational Addiction Partnership (

The trainee will have access to resources from across two leading GW4 ( institutions and a multidisciplinary environment including epidemiologists, clinical psychologists, neuropsychologists, behavioural scientists, and statisticians. 

How to apply:

Use the online application form:

More information about the scheme and the application process is available here:

For informal enquiries contact Dr Gemma Taylor

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