EPILEPSY RESEARCH INSTITUTE DTC PROJECT: Longitudinal assessment of cognitive difficulties through the early stages of epilepsy: clinical and imaging predictors



This is a longitudinal neuropsychological and brain imaging study in people with a new or recent diagnosis of epilepsy.


It has been reported in some adult studies that some domains of cognition are impaired as early as the point of diagnosis of epilepsy. However, it is not clear whether impairments (i) are dynamic and develop, worsen, or normalise throughout the early stages of the disorder, and how changes relate to the use of anti-seizure medications, (ii) relate to measurable changes in brain structure and function, and (iii) are similarly impacted in children and adults.

Project aim and hypothesis:

This project will determine the dynamic nature of cognitive impairments through the early stages of human epilepsy and identify the clinical and imaging predictors of cognitive impairment. The primary hypothesis is that cognitive impairments will be established at the time of diagnosis in some patients, will worsen over time, and will be predicted by measurable changes in brain structure and/or function.


A detailed cognitive battery has been performed in adults with newly diagnosed epilepsy and healthy controls. This cohort also has detailed structural, diffusion, and functional MRI data acquired at the same time as cognitive assessment. All participants have consented to follow up investigations and you will re-examine them using the same cognitive battery. Using this data, you will determine how and in whom cognitive impairments develop and whether this progression can be predicted by brain MRI data acquired as soon as epilepsy is diagnosed.

You will also obtain ethical approval to contact child and adult patients for cognitive assessment 5-10 years after their first diagnosis and perform cognitive testing in these patients and will explore the relationships between their cognitive performance and data obtained from MRI scans.

You will develop skills in cognitive assessment, brain imaging analysis, and predictive statistical modelling.


You will join an active team of researchers who will supervise and support this study, including brain imaging scientists, neuropsychologists, and neurologists. This project is part of a larger network of research organised via the Epilepsy Research Institute Doctoral Training Centre (ERI DTC). The successful applicant will therefore be part of a community of PhD students conducting research into epilepsy.

Candidate qualities:

·        Essential qualities: Good (First/Upper Second Class) degree in a relevant subject area (e.g., Psychology, Neuroscience etc.), self-motivated, organised and interested in neuropsychology and brain imaging in people with neurological disorders. Excellent computer skills.

·        Desirable qualities: Masters degree in a relevant discipline. Prior research using cognitive testing and/or brain imaging in people with brain damage or brain disorders. Experience of collecting patient data. Experience of computer coding.

Informal enquiries may be directed to Professor Keller: 

Interviews for this studentship will be held during week commencing 15th July 2024.

How to apply

*Please note that candidates may apply for any number of Epilepsy Research Institute (ERI) projects at the University of Manchester and Liverpool for October 2024 entry. A maximum of 6 projects are available across the institutions.

Please apply to the University of Liverpool’s Apply Yourself portal available at: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/how-to-apply//. Please ensure that you follow the following notes when completing this page:

Academic Information 1

In Admission Term, apply for 2024-25 entry

In Application Type, select Research Degree (MPhil/PhD/MD) – Full time

In Programme of Study, select Public Health – Doctor in Philosophy (PhD)

Education and Qualifications 1

Upload the relevant transcripts or certificates here

Research Degree Additional Information

In supervisors you can add the primary supervisor name/s for the project/s you are interested in

In research project or topic, add the project title/s you are interested in

In Are you applying for a studentship within an RCUK Centre for Doctoral Training, tick Yes

The Proposed Start Date is October 2024.

Supporting Information

Upload your CV and supporting statement here. A research proposal is not required; if a document is required you may upload a Word document simply stating the project title you are applying to.


Please insert the names and contact details of your referees in the application form.

Other information – Finance and Publicity

In Do you already have funding in place, tick No.

In What is your main source of funding, select Studentship.

In If you have been awarded funding or you are applying for funding (sponsorship, scholarship, studentship or award), please provide details, insert Studentship

In If you have selected studentship, please indicate the type of studentships (e.g. University of Liverpool studentship) and provide the reference number of this studentship, enter ERI DTC PhD Studentship – THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT 

Each applicant to the ERI programme will be asked to complete an EDI data form in order to report to ERI on candidate characteristics. A request will be made to all candidates as part of the acknowledgement of their application, via email. 

For further information regarding the ERI, please see here: https://epilepsy-institute.org.uk/eri/research/research-portfolio/cognition-in-people-with-epilepsy-and-their-offspring-how-does-epilepsy-and-its-treatment-affect-brain-function/


Open to UK applicants

Funding information

Funded studentship

Epilepsy Research Institute (ERI) DTC programme – starting October 2024. ERI provide the following funding for 4 years:

Stipend (2023/24 equivalent rate = £18,622)

Tuition Fees at home fee rate (2023/24 equivalent rate = £4,712)

Consumables fees

Note – ERI funding only covers UK (Home) fees.