Translational Neuroscience - Programme Structure

Translational Neuroscience - Programme Structure

The Wellcome Trust PhD programme in Translational Neuroscience: Lifecourse influences on human brain health, is an 'Integrated PhD' from the University of Edinburgh which provides a tapered programme over four years. The taught component is weighted towards year one, but training elements continue throughout years two and three, alongside your PhD research project. Students apply to the PhD programme; you only choose your individual PhD project towards the end of year one, after undertaking three different rotation projects.

Year One

In year one, you will receive regular training on translational methodological approaches alongside parallel discussions throughout the year (led by both clinical and fundamental researchers) focusing on human disorders across the lifecourse from development to adolescence/adulthood through to old age. Alongside these you will undertake three rotation projects, one from each of the 3 lifecourse areas. Thus your disorders discusions and your rotation projects will complement one another and progress through the lifecourse, whilst also being underpinned by relevant translational methadology.

Years Two - Four

Towards the end of year one you will choose your PhD project from a selection of bespoke translational projects co-supervised by both a fundamental and a clinical/human researcher. In years two and three the disorders and key methodological discussions with clinical and fundamental researchers will continue, and these will both reinforce and enhance your PhD project research experience.

In year four you will complete your PhD project and write up your findings into a thesis dissertation to be submitted before the completion of the four-year programme. The award of your PhD will be dependant on timely submission and sucessful completion of a thesis defence.


Throughout your PhD programme you will be taught by a mixture of fundamental and clinical/human researchers. Additionally, in year one, you will also be teamed up with a clinical PhD student who will act as a buddy. There will also be regular interactions with clinical PhD students on the following programmes:

ECAT - Edinburgh Clinical Academic Training programme (ECAT) provides clincians with an opportunity to take time out to undertake a research PhD and develop a career as a clinical academic.

PsySTAR - This is a programme that provides postgraduate training for psychiatrists and it's aim is to dramatically transform and improve mental health clinical research training in the UK.  It is a new initiative funded by the Medical Research Foundation and the Medical Research Counci and jointly run by the Universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Exemplar Projects

Examples of the sorts of PhD projects that could be offered (this is a small selection and is indicative only):


  • What mechanisms link maternal stress in pregnancy to adverse neurodevelopmental and behavioural outcomes in the offspring of humans and animals?
  • A systematic approach to understanding, and improving, the use of animal models in autism research
  • Understanding the cellular basis of intellectual disability by modelling causal mutations elucidated from the Deciphering Developmental Disorders cohort
  • Analysis of electroencephalogram recordings to reveal the relationships between seizures, cognition and behaviour in children with epilepsy
  • 2D and 3D stem cell models of extreme growth disorders


  • Development of a 3 dimensional MRI brain template that is operable across the whole life course
  • Local and long-range connectivity in schizophrenia and related disorders
  • Analysis of functional genetic variants predisposing to major mental illness
  • Understanding mechanisms and developing biomarkers for Major Depressive Disorder
  • Utilising cognitive gene networks identified from the mouse as tools to stratify mental disorder

Old age/neurodegeneration

  • Longitudinal changes in DNA methylation and their relationship with modifiable lifestyle factors, cognitive decline, and morphological changes in the ageing brain
  • Neurovascular unit dysfunction leading to neurodegeneration and cognitive decline in cerebral small vessel disease: in models and man
  • Understanding synaptic contributors to dementia using high-resolution imaging in postmortem human cohorts and mechanistic interventions in animal models
  • Elucidating the relationship between cognitive decline and structural and molecular changes in synapses and axons in clinically well-characterized Motor Neuron Disease patients
  • Using stem cell models to study non cell-autonomous effects of ALS-associated mutations and assess disease modifiers


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