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PhD Studentship: Understanding and Disrupting Social Decision-Making in Health and Disorder

University of Birmingham - School of Psychology

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Birmingham
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: See advert
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 27th November 2023
Closes: 4th January 2024

The social decision neuroscience lab (www.sdn-lab.org) invites applications for a competition-funded BBSRC PhD. The lab currently consists of 7 members and is funded by the Wellcome Trust, UKRI, ERC, Leverhulme Trust and Jacobs Foundation.

Background

Humans are highly social creatures, spending much of their lives thinking about and making decisions that affect other people. However, whilst the capacity to successfully engage in social interactions is critical, we still lack a clear characterisation of the mechanisms of social decision-making and its brain and behavioural basis (Lockwood et al., 2020).

Recent advances in cognitive neuroscience have allowed us to combine measures of behaviour, computational models of decision-making, neuroimaging, deep brain stimulation, and self-report which can get us closer to understanding why there are differences in social decision-making between people, and the fundamental mechanisms (Ruff & Fehr, 2014; Lockwood et al., 2020, TiCS). Moreover, such models can bridge levels of explanation from neuroscience to psychology.

Objectives and Methods

The proposed project will use these novel approaches to examine the behavioural and neural basis of social decision-making and ultimately to disrupt them using non-invasive deep brain stimulation. First we will collect big-data samples online from novel computerised tasks measuring social decision-making, combined with computational modelling. Next there will be an opportunity to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to uncover the neural basis. Finally, we hope to use recent advances in focused ultrasound stimulation to disrupt the neural basis.

Training and Outcomes

Students will receive advanced training in methods from psychology, cognitive neuroscience, neuroimaging, and computational modelling. The findings will have important implications for healthy development across the lifespan and potential interventions to reduce antisocial behaviour.

Techniques

Advanced techniques in computational modelling (model fitting, model simulation, model generation)
Analysis of brain imaging data (functional MRI, structural MRI, connectivity analyses)
Programming of behavioural tasks (Matlab, Presentation)
Advanced statistical analysis (Matlab, R)
Data collection with clinical populations, children, adolescents and older adults.
Additional opportunities for learning of cutting-edge cognitive neuroscience techniques with collaborators at the University of Birmingham, University of Oxford and University of Zurich, amongst others.

Person Specification

Applicants should have a strong background in psychology and research methods (statistics, programming). They should have a commitment to high quality research and hold at least an Upper Second Class Honours Degree in psychology, neuroscience, computer science, data science or related disciplines. It is desirable that applicants will have knowledge of research into development and experience or knowledge of computational models of learning and decision-making. Previous experience or knowledge of brain imaging is desirable but not required.

Funding notes:

***IMPORTANT*** Prior to submitting an application, all interested candidates should first contact Dr Patricia Lockwood (p.l.lockwood@bham.ac.uk) by December 5th 2023. Following this, only applicants with the most competitive application will be requested to apply. Candidates should submit a personal statement (max 1 page, outlining why you would like to join the lab) and a CV with grades listed to Dr. Lockwood

Candidates should also check their eligibility in advance of applying
https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/mibtp/phd/application/#Eligibility

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