RIsk CDT - Adolescent cannabis use: mapping risk factors and neurodevelopmental trajectories using a large-scale cohort with multimodal imaging, behavioral, cognitive and genetic data

The proposed PhD project has 3 key aims:

First, the PhD student will employ advanced computational/statistical methods to estimate which (combination of) factors predate cannabis use onset, using multimodal neuroimaging (functional/structural connectivity), psychosocial, cognitive and genetic data.

Second, the PhD student will map neurodevelopmental trajectories linked to adolescent cannabis use – with a focus on structural/functional connectivity.

Third, the PhD student will evaluate the link between distinct cannabinoid compounds (with neurotoxic/psychotogenic and neuroprotective/anxiolytic properties), with neural (connectivity) and psychosocial/cognitive outcomes.

To address these aims, the PhD student will work with data from the IMAGEN http://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/depts/mrc/research/imagen.aspx the first multicentre functional and structural genetic-neuroimaging study of a cohort of 2000 +14 year old adolescents 

followed-up for five years with comprehensive cognitive, behavioural, clinical and neuroimaging data.

You will work with and have access to a multidisciplinary team with high-level expertise in neuroimaging, engineering, data modeling, neuroscience, addiction and mental health and genetics. You will have opportunities of training in high-level neuroimaging methods in specialized research centers.


Your PhD will require the successful completion of a Master of Research, attendance to a highly structured PhD Training Programme and submission of a PhD thesis.

Your PhD will focus on:

  • Identifying multiple factors that predate/confer risk of cannabis use onset using multimodal imaging (functional/structural connectivity), psychosocial, cognitive and genetic data;
  • Map trajectories of neurodevelopment in adolescent cannabis users relative to non-users.
  • Disseminate study results via publication in high quality neuroscientific journals.


Essential requirements:

  • Highly motivated, with a strong interest in addiction, psychopathology and neurodevelopment
  • Excellent English written and verbal communications skills in English
  • Experience with statistical and computer programming skills (e.g., scripting, Matlab, LINUX).

Desirable skills:

  •  Experience in neuroimaging / biostatistics data analysis
  •  Experience in writing publications in peer reviewed scientific journals
  •  A numerate background – e.g., a Master's degree in computer science, mathematics, engineering, medical image analysis or related discipline.


This PhD studentship is funded by the EPSRC & ESRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Risk and Uncertainty at the University of Liverpool.

The PhD post sits between the Institute of Risk and Uncertainty – a world class education and research centre with state of the art simulation and technology facilities, dedicated to helping people and organisations create a safer world - and the Department of Experimental Psychology, Institute of Psychology Health and Society (IPHS), a research-led academic Institute with the vision to make a difference to the health of societies, locally and globally. IPHS hosts >200 world-leading experts in a range of disciplines, from experimental psychology through to medicine, dentistry and social policy.

For more information on the project please contact:
Dr Valentina Lorenzetti vlor@liverpool.ac.uk tel: +44 0151 794 5657
Dr Marco De Angelis Marco.De-Angelis@liverpool.ac.uk tel: +44 0151 794 9892
Please submit your application online via https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/applying/online

Centre for Doctoral Training in Quantification and Management of Risk & Uncertainty in Complex Systems & Environments is funded by EPSRC and ESRC.