Skip to main content

The effects of visual impairment on motor function


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Friday 15 March 2024
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>

This fully funded PhD place provides an exciting opportunity to pursue postgraduate research in the fields of ageing, visual perception, motor control and quality of life. One full scholarship is available in the School of Psychology to start in October 2024. This Thomas Ward scholarship is open to applicants eligible to pay academic fees at the UK rate.

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

<p>Writing, eating, drinking, getting dressed, and driving, along with many other examples, represent common activities that include prehension and aiming movements (i.e. reaching to pick up objects) that depend heavily on vision. Loss of visual perception therefore often results in lack of independence, decreased wellbeing, and lower quality of life. This PhD focuses on investigating how visual impairment impacts visuomotor function and is aimed at supporting the development of more effective, science-based assessment and intervention protocols.</p> <p>The incidence of visual impairments increases with age. Cataracts (a condition of the eye causing the clouding of the crystalline lens and resulting in blurred vision) offer a real-life example of a visual impairment that affects prehension skills that most commonly occurs with ageing. Although cataract surgery is cheap, it costs the NHS millions due to its high prevalence, causing restricted access to second-eye cataract surgery within the UK (to save money) and leaving people with one blurred eye. Critically, due to limited research on the impact of this kind of visual impairment on visuomotor skills, decisions to remove cataracts are currently based on arbitrary and geographically variable visual thresholds. We want to improve NHS protocols on recommending cataract surgery by studying the effects of blurred vision on prehension.&nbsp;</p> <p>The successful student will study the effects of monocular and binocular blur on various motor and visual tasks in real and virtual environments. The project will offer the candidate a unique platform to develop a rich set of professional research skills, including data analysis with R, recording of human movements with motion capture, patient assessment, building VR experiments in Unity and C#, and of course writing for publication. Previous experience with any of these is preferred but not required.</p> <p>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.&nbsp;</p> <p>The proposed PhD student will be based at the University of Leeds, and supervised by experts in the Motion Capture (MoCAP) lab and Immersive Cognition Group (ICON) in the School of Psychology at the University of Leeds. They will also work 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 and Vizard will be available. Potential projects are up for discussion, but could include examining:</p> <p>1) &nbsp; how prehension skills are affected by visual impairment (real and simulated) and/or first and second eye cataract surgery&nbsp;</p> <p>2) &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> <h5>Other Conditions:</h5> <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 no later than 1st January 2025.</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.<br />

<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. Part time study is also available, and the stipend and study duration will be amended accordingly.&nbsp;</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>