ESRC SeNSS Collaborative studentship

ESRC 1+3 and +3 Studentships via SeNSS - Flower, flora, fauna: can novel metrics of verbal fluency performance help detect individuals at risk of future cognitive decline? (2022)


What you get

The studentship award covers your university fees and provides you with a stipend of £15,609 per year. You will also be able to apply for small amounts of additional funding via the SeNSS Research Training Support Grant.

Type of award

Postgraduate research

PhD project


Supervisors: Claire Lancaster, Jenny Rusted

Over 850,000 people are living with a dementia diagnosis in the UK. Whilst treatments to halt or reverse dementia-causing neurodegenerative disease are limited, the ability to detect individuals at risk of future cognitive impairment will help advance preventative strategies.

This studentship asks if the patterns of words produced on a simple verbal fluency task (i.e., name as many animals as you can in 60-seconds…) can identify individuals vulnerable to future cognitive decline. You will use natural language processing techniques to characterise subtle differences in the semantic, language and executive strategies to produce words. You will complete research with healthy adults differentiated by whether they carry a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease or not, and with adults referred to NHS memory assessment services with cognitive complaints. 

This studentship will be jointly supported by the School of Psychology, University of Sussex, and the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. You will be supervised by Dr Claire Lancaster and Professor Jennifer Rusted (University of Sussex) – both of whom have expertise in neuropsychology, ageing & dementia, and Dr Naji Tabet – a practising old-age psychiatrist and director of the Centre for Dementia Studies at Brighton & Sussex Medical School.

Project aims and objectives

You will develop an innovative, theoretically driven collection of outcomes for characterising verbal fluency task performance using easy-to-automate, computational techniques. You will subsequently test if these measures are sensitive to the effects of carrying an APOE 4 genetic risk variant for dementia, and if this sensitivity changes with age. You will complete research within an NHS memory assessment service to explore if the verbal fluency measures you have established can help aid diagnosis and 1-year prognosis in a real-world healthcare setting. 

Training Opportunities

This studentship provides training in quantitative research methods, programming, data science and statistics. You will be given the opportunity to attend advanced research methods workshops, both externally and at the University of Sussex.

In addition, you will observe and complete research in an NHS setting. You will gain experience completing research with healthy adults of all ages, plus work with individuals living with a dementia diagnosis.

Applicants: essential and/or desirable attributes/skills

You’re normally expected to have a Merit (an average of 60% overall) in a Masters degree OR an upper second-class (2.1) undergraduate honours degree in a relevant subject area (e.g., Psychology, Neuroscience, Cognitive Science). You may also be considered for the studentship if you have other professional qualifications or experience of equivalent standing.

This studentship is ideally suited to individuals with a passion for neuropsychology, especially those considering a clinical academic career.

Studenship details

  • This studentship may be taken as either a 1+3 year award (a one-year MSc followed by a three-year PhD), a +3 award (a three-year PhD)
  • It may be taken full-time or part-time.


Applicants must hold at least a UK upper second class honours degree or equivalent. 

Residential Eligibility

  • To be eligible for a full award you must be a Home or International student who satisfies the criteria below:

To be a home student, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK national (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have settled status, or
  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If you do not meet any of the criteria above, you are classed as an international student.

Number of scholarships available



9 February 2022 23:59

How to apply

In order to be considered for this SeNSS studentship, you must first apply for a place to study at the University of Sussex, noting that you are applying for the collaborative studentship. Please go to for information on how to make your application.

You will then need to make a separate application to SeNSS for this collaborative studentship. Please read the SeNSS Collaborative Studentship Application Guidance Notes before completing the SENSS online application form. The Guidance Notes are available on the following webpage: Applying for a SeNSS collaborative studentship

The deadline for applying for a place at the University of Sussex is 9 February 2022 (23:59)

The deadline for completing a SeNSS application form is 28 February 2022 (12:00 - midday)

Contact us

For enquiries related to the studentship topic, please email Dr Claire Lancaster

For enquires related to the studentship and the application process, please email


9 February 2022 (23:59) - deadline for applying for a PhD place at the University of Sussex

28 February 2022 (12:00 midday) - deadline for completing the SeNSS application form.

Mid March - interviews

Successful applicants will be informed in early April 2022





At level(s):
PG (taught), PG (research)

Application deadline:
9 February 2022 23:59 (GMT)
the deadline has now expired


The award is available to people from these specific countries: