Mathematical Modelling of Event-Related Potentials in Semantic Representation and Memory - Mathematics - EPSRC DTP funded PhD Studentship Ref: 2891

About the award

This project is one of a number funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership to commence in September 2018. This project is in direct competition with others for funding; the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding.

The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,553 per annum for 2017-2018. It will provide research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.

Please note that of the total number of projects within the competition, up to 15 studentships will be filled.

Professor Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova

Streatham Campus, Exeter

Project Description
N400 is an event-related potential (ERP) component that tap into semantic representation and memory and is an important markers of cognitive function, hence valuable clinical tools for quantifying integrity of the semantic system in populations with semantic comprehension deficit including stroke survivors, patients with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) or focal seizure disorders. Yet the neural origin of this component is largely unknown, which limits robustness of its measurement and clinical applicability. This project investigates the origin of N400, i.e., whether it emerges as a result of phase alignment in the ongoing oscillatory activity or as a result of an evoked neural activity.

In the first stage of the project, the student will explore the neural dynamics of N400 by applying model-based data analysis and feature extraction to already collected in the second supervisor’s lab in Bristol human scalp electroencephalogram (EEG) data from healthy younger and older people responding to meaningful stimuli such as words, sentences or pictures of objects. This analysis will inform data-driven generative model(s) parameterization.

In the second stage, the network models developed in stage 1 will be perturbed to identify the parameters (features) for conditions such as stroke and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). 

The final stage of the project will aim to link the event-related response with the underlying induced and evoked activity and to further investigate this activity using learning in the model space approach. There is a potential to reveal therapeutic targets for stroke and TBI.

Entry Requirements
You should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in applied mathematics, computer science, physics or engineering. Experience in biomedical engineering or experimental psychology is desirable.

The majority of the studentships are available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK and are classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes.  If you have not resided in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship, you are not eligible for a maintenance allowance so you would need an alternative source of funding for living costs. To be eligible for fees-only funding you must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU.  For information on EPSRC residency criteria click here.

Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are NOT eligible for funding. International students interested in studying at the University of Exeter should search our funding database for alternative options.


Application deadline:10th January 2018
Value:3.5 year studentship: UK/EU tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate. Current rate of £14,553 per year.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Doctoral

How to apply

You will be required to upload the following documents:
•       CV
•       Letter of application outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to
        undertake the project.
•       Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.  This should be an interim
        transcript if you are still studying.
•       If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your current
        proficiency in English.  For further details of the University’s English language requirements please see

The closing date for applications is midnight (GMT) on Wednesday 10 January 2018.  Interviews will be held at the University of Exeter in late February 2018.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email:
Project-specific queries should be directed to the supervisor.

During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates.  These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to:

• the selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant programme, which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;
• administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant programme.

Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent.