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Integrated clinical academic training

ACFs in conjunction with Lancaster University

There is a well developed Integrated Clinical Academic Training (ICAT) pathway in Neurology at Lancaster University. Three former Lancaster Academic Clinical Fellows (ACFs) in Neurology have followed successful clinical research trajectories, including PhD completion and progression to Academic Clinical Lecturer grade; our current ACF in Neurology is currently submitting PhD fellowship applications. The ACFs in Neurology have been closely supported by Lancaster University and have benefitted from the MSc programme to develop a comprehensive knowledge of research methodology. This has served as a secure foundation for their subsequent clinical research.


PhD Projects

Current opportunity (deadline 29/3/24): Multimodal exploration of neural correlates and structural-functional brain dynamics in cerebral small vessel disease 

Cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) is the most common brain disease and refers to a range of pathological processes affecting the small blood vessels in the brain. SVD is particularly important in Lancashire and the wider North-West of England, a region with a high burden of cardiovascular disease and health inequalities. A recent study on individuals from Lancashire who had been referred for brain imaging showed that SVD was present in over half of the patients aged over 60. SVD is a significant health concern, linked to 50% of dementia cases and 25% of ischaemic strokes, and can manifest as gait disturbances, apathy and depression. SVD, particularly its subtype cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA), is also linked to other neurological issues such as seizures, sleep disturbances and cognitive impairment. However, the underlying mechanisms and neural correlates of these conditions are not well understood.

In this PhD you will engage in cutting-edge research, characterising EEG and imaging patterns specific to SVD and CAA, investigate the structural-functional changes in brain networks and underlying neural mechanisms of these conditions, and undertake a pilot clinical study to explore how seizures, transient focal neurological episodes (TFNEs), and sleep disturbances relate to cognitive function in SVD.

Previous opportunities

Our previous NHSX PhD internship with Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Lancaster University looked at neurology clinic letters and the evaluation of pre-trained named entity recognition and linking (NER+L) models. This effectively groups identified concepts together and assigns SNOMED-CT classification. The Medical Concept Annotation Toolkit (MedCAT) was used within the LANDER (Lancashire Data Science Environment) Trusted Research Environment (TRE) in Azure to identify and link concepts Future PhD internship opportunities may arise between NHS England and Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.