PhD studentship Neural markers of language processing in typically-developing children

Closing date: 12 January 2018
Department: Objective measures
Salary: £15,000 per annum

Project title: Neural markers of language processing in typically-developing children and in children with developmental language disorder.

Supervisor 1: Douglas Hartley

Supervisor 2: Ian Wiggins

Supervisor 3: Joanna Barry

Funding status: National Institute for Health Research. Tax-free stipend of £15,000 per annum. All fees paid.

Application deadline: 12th January 2018

Project description:

Developmental language delay (DLD) impairs language acquisition in ~8% of children. Current measures of speech perception require behavioural assessments that are only possible in older children. Since very young children are difficult to assess with behavioural techniques, the clinical teams managing these patients’ care lack tools with which to identify young children with DLD who will need early speech and language support. Specifically, a marker for early identification and intervention for the condition is currently lacking.

Research from our laboratory using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) has shown that cortical brain activation is correlated with speech perception in adults and children. fNIRS enables safe, quiet and repeated measurement of cortical responses which is ideal for testing young children. Thus, in typically-developing children and children with DLD, we propose to measure speech responses using fNIRS and behavioural measures.

The goal of this PhD is to explore the potential usefulness of fNIRS as a prognostic tool to predict speech perception in young children with and without language delay. The long-term aim of this work is to develop early clinical screening tool for DLD.

Subject area:
Medicine, neuroscience, neuroimaging, paediatrics, audiology, speech and language, development

Funding notes:
You should have or expect to obtain a first class or upper 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent), or an MSc/MA, in psychology, audiology or other relevant scientific discipline. Research experience in neuroscience, neuroimaging, psychology or audiology, and experience of working with children, will be of particular advantage. You will have excellent communication and team-working skills, be self-driven and highly motivated. You should also be eligible to apply for relevant research clearances that will be required including a check with the Disclosure and Barring Service.

Applications should include a CV and covering letter including the names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addressed of two referees including at least one academic referee. Application should be sent to

Additional enquiries:
Informal enquiries may be addressed to Douglas Hartley email: