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PhD Studentship in Psychology: Understanding the psychology of breathlessness in respiratory disease

University of Bath - Department of Psychology

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Bath
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: Not Specified
Hours: Full Time, Part Time
Placed On: 21st October 2021
Closes: 14th January 2022

Lead supervisor:     Dr Ben Ainsworth, Department of Psychology, University of Bath,
email: b.ainsworth@bath.ac.uk         

Co-supervisors: Dr Sarah Denford (Bristol), Dr James Dodd (Bristol)

Collaborators: Dr Kay Wang (Oxford), Dr Kyle Pattinson (Oxford)

This PhD will ask:

Can we understand the psychological mechanisms behind the experience of breathlessness? How can therapies improve the anxiety, depression and reduced quality of life breathlessness causes, and who should be targeted by them?

Background:

This project is being advertised as one that is in competition for a fully funded studentship. The successful candidate would work with the proposed supervisor to put forward an application to the ESRC South-West Doctoral Training Partnership.

Respiratory conditions (including asthma, COPD and cystic fibrosis) account for 4 million deaths each year and chronic breathlessness hugely disrupts people’s lives. However, the impact of breathlessness is poorly predicted by physiology (eg lung function). Drawing on the lived experience of respiratory patients and neurocognitive models of interoception (internal perception of the body), this project will understand the psychological mechanisms of breathlessness, and how therapies can target them

This project will work with a cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary team of health psychologists, behavioural scientists, respiratory doctors and clinicians to use a range of techniques, including qualitative interviewing, lab-based neurocognitive experimental modelling, and randomised controlled clinical trials. The aim is to understand i) the psychological predictors of ‘distressing’ breathlessness for people with respiratory disease, and ii) the degree to which these predictors (eg. poor interoceptive awareness) can be targeted by psychological self-management interventions (eg. breathing retraining, mindfulness).

The project and training:

Collaborating across Universities of Bath and Bristol, and University Hospital Bristol, in this project you will working directly with respiratory patients in every aspect of the project. This project will have theoretical and ‘real world’ applied impact including informing guidelines and treatment for breathlessness/asthma/COPD.

In the first year, you will be embedded within the Difficult Airways Service in Bristol, and will learn qualitative methods from a world-class team in the Centre for Academic Primary Care. You will conduct an in-depth qualitative study of  experiences of breathlessness among people with respiratory disease.

In the second year, you will spend time in the world-class experimental psychology labs in Bath, learning advanced statistical modelling methods to evaluate breathlessness perceptions within neurocognitive models.

In the third year, you will work across several respiratory disease groups, learning clinical trial methodology and conduct a randomised controlled feasibility trial to understand how changes in interoceptive processes predict individual responses to psychological breathlessness treatments.

The above schedule can be adjusted to accommodate a part time studentship.

Impact:

You will have opportunities to work with national policymakers to ensure your research is meaningful to patients and further develop project details, including support with recruitment, dissemination of findings and opportunities for further research after their PhD. The training opportunites throughout the project will give you experience in clinical and psychological research, ensuring you are highly sought after for post-doctoral positions and employment. 

How to apply:

This project is for October 2022 entry. Full proposals are due 14th January 2022, and interested candidates are advised to contact Dr Ainsworth (b.ainsworth@bath.ac.uk) as soon as possible to allow time to develop a competitive application.

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