Skip to main content

The effects of second-eye cataract surgery on visual and motor function


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Friday 30 June 2023
Project start date
Sunday 1 October 2023
Country eligibility
UK only
Source of funding
University of Leeds
Dr Rachel Coats
Additional supervisors
Dr Carlo Campagnoli, Professor Richard Wilkie, Professor Rigmor Baraas
School of Psychology
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

In 2013, around 17% of the UK population were aged 65 or over, and this is estimated to increase to up to one in four people by 2050. One of the most common changes to occur with ageing is the development of cataracts, a condition of the eye causing the clouding of the crystalline lens and resulting in blurred vision. Although cataract surgery is cheap, it costs the NHS a lot of money due to its high prevalence, and this has led to restricted access to second-eye cataract surgery (SES) within the United Kingdom. Critically, due to limited research on how visuomotor skills are impacted by this kind of visual impairment, decisions to remove cataracts are currently based on arbitrary and variable visual thresholds. Whilst there has been some research exploring the effects of first and second-eye surgery on vision (usually visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and stereopsis), there is less focused on motor control, and this is largely restricted to driving and falls. In fact, upper limb movements are fundamental daily activities since they ensure an individual&rsquo;s independence (e.g., picking up objects and food, making calls, opening doors) and their optimal execution depends on reliable binocular vision. Studying how these routinary actions are impacted under impaired vision will provide important scientific evidence to improve NHS protocols recommending cataract surgery. The successful student will look at the effects of first and second eye cataract surgery on various motor and visual tasks, most likely in real and virtual environments.<br /> <br /> The School of Psychology invites applications from prospective postgraduate researchers who wish to commence study for a PhD in the academic year 2023/24 for this Thomas Ward Scholarship on the effects of cataracts on visual and motor function.<br /> <br /> The award is open to full-time or part-time candidates (UK only) who meet the eligibility for a place on a PhD degree at the School of Psychology. <br />

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>For those with bilateral cataracts, the number of patients receiving second eye surgery (SES) in the UK ranges from 21&ndash;58% across Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), where surgical restrictions (&lsquo;managed access&rsquo;) are often based on arbitrary visual thresholds. The lack of a systematic body of work establishing the functional benefits of SES means that NICE guidelines (evidence-based recommendations for health and care in England) currently involve the surgeon holding &lsquo;discussions with the person about the effect of cataract on their quality of life&rsquo; to decide whether to go ahead with surgery. Sadly, it is difficult to see how a meaningful discussion can be held when there is a dearth of evidence that would allow the surgeon to state with confidence what effects a unilateral cataract (or&nbsp;replacing it) may have on visual and motor function. This PhD will be based around investigating the effects of second-eye cataract surgery on visual and motor function to inform policies about who should receive surgery and when.</p> <p>The proposed PhD student will be based at the University of Leeds, and supervised by experts in the Immersive Cognition Group in the <a href="">School of Psychology</a> at the University of Leeds. They will also work closely with our collaborator Rigmor Baraas, a Professor of Visual Sciences at the University of Southeast Norway. Professor Baraas will provide expertise and insight regarding measuring visual function, and possibly access to cataract patients in Kongsberg. Over the course of the PhD the student will have the chance to recruit participants, collect data, analyse data and write up findings for publication. Software and statistical training in programmes such as R, Unity, Optitrack, Vizard will be available. Potential projects are up for discussion, but could include examining:</p> <p>1)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;how prehension skills change after first and second eye cataract surgery&nbsp;<br /> 2)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;whether heading perception and driving skills benefit from the effects of cataract surgery<br /> 3)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;the effects of reduced vision on gait and stability (which links to likelihood of falls) in collaboration with colleagues in Bradford who have the necessary lab equipment<br /> 4)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;how the systematic manipulation of visual perception in a virtual environment (simulating different stages of cataract development) affects prehension skills and sensorimotor adaptation.</p> <h4>Information about the Award</h4> <ul> <li>We are offering a full-time or part-time PhD scholarship in the School of Psychology for one UK candidate, covering a maintenance grant matching UKRI maintenance stipend of &pound;18,622 for the 2023/24 academic year (pro-rata for part time study) and UK tuition fees for three years (full-time) or five years (part-time), subject to satisfactory progress.&nbsp;</li> </ul> <h4>Duration of the Award</h4> <ul> <li>Full-time (3 years) or Part-time (5 years). The award will be made for one year (full-time) or two years (part-time) in the first instance and renewable for a further period of up to two years (full-time) or three years (part-time), subject to satisfactory academic progress.</li> </ul> <h4>Other Conditions</h4> <ul> <li>Applicants must not have already been awarded or be currently studying for a doctoral degree.</li> <li>Awards must be taken up by 1st January 2024.</li> <li>Applicants must live within a reasonable distance of the University of Leeds whilst in receipt of this scholarship.</li> </ul>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>We would recommend you contacting the supervision team for this project prior to submitting a formal application. To apply for this scholarship opportunity applicants should complete an <a href="">online application form</a> and attach the following documentation to support their application.&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li>a full academic CV</li> <li>degree certificate and transcripts of marks</li> <li>Evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (if applicable)</li> </ul> <p>To help us identify that you are applying for this scholarship project please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;</p> <ul> <li>Select PhD in Psychological Sciences as your programme of study</li> <li>Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert</li> <li>For source of funding please state you are applying for a Thomas Ward Scholarship</li> </ul> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Across all Faculties we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+ and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.</em></p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to this scholarship in the School of Psychology should normally have an Undergraduate degree of 2:1 or above (or international equivalent) in a relevant subject area. A Master&rsquo;s degree is desirable, but not essential. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the School or Admissions Team prior to making an application.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. The Faculty of Medicine and Health minimum requirements in IELTS and TOEFL tests for PhD, MSc, MPhil, MD are: &bull; British Council IELTS - score of 6.5 overall, with no element less than 6.0 &bull; TOEFL iBT - overall score of 92 with the listening and reading element no less than 21, writing element no less than 22 and the speaking element no less than 23.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p>The Thomas Ward Scholarship will attract an annual tax-free stipend of &pound;18,622 each year for up to 3 years subject to satisfactory progress. Academic fees will also be paid at the UK fee rate. Due to limited funding we can only consider applicants for this position who are eligible for UK fee status. The start date for this award is 1 October 2023, although there will be flexibility for the right candidate.</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>We encourage applicant to contact the supervisor(s) for informal discussion about the suitability of the project before applying to the University</p> <p>Dr Rachel Coats e:&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> <p>For further information about the application process please contact the Admissions team<br /> e:&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p>