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PhD Studentship: Can we use virtual reality and exergames to improve cognition and to reduce depression symptomatology?

University of Bath - Psychology

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Bath
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: Not Specified
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 2nd December 2022
Closes: 13th January 2023

Project Title: Can we use virtual reality and exergames to improve cognition and to reduce depression symptomatology?

Lead Supervisor: Dr Alexandra Voinescu

Email contact: Av561@bath.ac.uk

Department: Psychology

Funding amount: Fully funded, see advert

Hours: Full Time or Part Time

Supervisory team

Dr Alexandra Voinescu, University of Bath, Department of Psychology (lead supervisor)

Dr Pamela Jacobsen, University of Bath, Department of Psychology (co-supervisor)

Professor Jie Sui, University of Aberdeen, the School of Psychology (co-supervisor)

The Project:

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the ESRC South West Doctoral Training Partnership.

This project will investigate the potential of immersive VR-based cognitive training and exergaming in the rehabilitation of cognitive process (e.g., attention, executive functions) of people with depressive disorders. Cognitive symptoms are experienced as a reduced ability to think or concentrate and are widely recognised as a key aspect of the Major Depressive Disorder (DSM 5). A secondary aim is to see if VR cognitive training and exergaming can improve depression symptomatology.

People with depressive disorders show deficits in various cognitive domains, which persist in the remission phase and worsen in case of repeated episodes (Rock et al., 2014; Snyder et al., 2013; Parkinson et al., 2020; Semkovska et al., 2019). It is proposed that targeting cognitive impairment in depression can lead to improvements in symptom severity and overall disease outcomes (Semkovskaet al., 2019; Chakrabarty et al., 2016). Consequently, there is an urgent need to develop novel interventions that target cognitive dysfunction in depression to reduce distress and restore overall social and occupational functioning (Semkovska et al., 2019; Miskowiak et al., 2016; Bortolato et al., 2016).

There are currently limited options for improving cognition in depressive disorders, as most psychological or psychiatric interventions focus on improving mood (Thérond et al., 2021). Cognitive remediation programs and physical activity are two non-pharmaceutical approaches that are gaining support in treating cognitive impairments in depressive disorders. Combining the two could lead to greater improvements in cognition due to synergistic effects in brain plasticity (Bamidis et al., 2014;  Fissler  et al., 2013).

Requirements:

Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an area appropriate to the skills requirements of the project. We are looking for someone who has a strong background and experience in clinical psychology. The successful candidate will be trained to use VR methods during the PhD, however, technical and programming skills (e.g., Unity, Matlab, Inquisit, Eprime) would be an advantage.

Non-UK applicants will also be required to have met the English language entry requirements of the University of Bath.

How to apply:

This project is for October 2023 entry. Full proposals are due 13th January 2023, and interested candidates are advised to contact Dr Alexandra Voinescu on email address av561@bath.ac.uk as soon as possible in order to allow time to develop a competitive application.

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