Master's by Research projects

If you are interested in studying on our Master's by Research programme, you can find details of current projects, with links to abstracts outlining their content, below.

Application process

To apply for any of our Master's by Research programmes, please complete a research proposal form:

When completing the research proposal form it is recommended that you make direct contact with the supervisor listed against the project title you are interested in applying to.

You can link to contact details for supervisors from the abstracts below or find them on our people page.

Once you have completed the research proposal form, please submit this via the online application system accessed by clicking on the “apply now” button on the Master's by research programme page.

Research projects

 

The effect of muscle pain on isometric time to exhaustion of the knee extensors

Supervisor: Dr Lex Mauger

Abstract: Intense exercise induces a metabolic environment in the muscle which elicits exercise-induced pain. The magnitude of the pain experienced is proportional to the intensity and duration of the exercise performed, and has been linked to endurance performance. Exploring this relationship is challenging because it is not easy to recreate the experience of exercise-induced pain independently of exercise intensity. Over the last 3 years, the SSES has validated and employed the use of intramuscular injections of hypertonic saline to replicate the experience of exercise-induced pain in the knee extensors. The purpose of this Research Training Project is to investigate the perceptual and performance impact of increased exercise-induced pain (via an intramuscular saline injection) on the performance of isometric time to exhaustion exercise of the knee extensors. 

Please note, there is a £450 bench fee associated with this project to cover the costs associated with the payment of participants

Acute and chronic responses to individualized training prescriptions

Supervisor: Dr James Hopker

Abstract: There appears to be increasing agreement that the response to a training programme can be remarkably diverse. It has long been established that basing an individual’s time to exhaustion at the same relative intensity can vary hugely (e.g. 88% VO2max cyclists’ time to exhaustion varied from 12 min to 75 min). However, the method for prescribing training in most studies remains standardised as a percentage of maximum. Consequently, it seems unsurprising that the training response may differ between two individuals training at a standardised intensity that yields such a diverse response to even a single bout of exercise. Even where the ability to sustain a standardised training intensity is more carefully controlled, the underlying assumption that this is linked to a training response remains open. Moreover, the fact that submaximal and/or maximal laboratory measures (such as lactate threshold, or VO2max) are correlated with exercise performance does not make these indices appropriate benchmarks for setting training intensities. The purpose of this Research Training Project is to explore the physiological consequences of novel methods of training prescription, both on an acute and chronic basis. 

Changes in cortical activity associated with tonic muscle pain

Supervisor: Dr Lex Mauger

Abstract: Intense exercise induces a metabolic environment in the muscle which elicits exercise-induced pain. The magnitude of the pain experienced is proportional to the intensity and duration of the exercise performed, and has been linked to endurance performance. Exploring this relationship is challenging because it is not easy to recreate the experience of exercise-induced pain independently of exercise intensity. Over the last 3 years, the SSES has validated and employed the use of intramuscular injections of hypertonic saline to replicate the experience of exercise-induced pain in the knee extensors. The purpose of this Research Training Project is to use EEG to investigate the neural changes which are associated with tonic muscle pain independently and in combination with exercise.

Please note, there is a £450 bench fee associated with this project to cover the costs associated with the payment of participants

The volunteering leagcy of sport events

Supervisor: Dr Niki Koutrou

Abstract: Sport participation in the UK is largely sustained by the contribution of a myriad of volunteers, who are not receiving any financial reward for their services. To a similar extent, the viability of many sport events, either large or small, generally depends on the short-term or episodic volunteer. Not only is the involvement of these volunteers critical to underwriting the financial and logistical success of events but event volunteers are amongst the more conspicuous components of an event and are likely to have frequent interactions with participants and/or spectators. Therefore, stakeholder perceptions of event quality and success may be partially dependent on the nature of their experiences with event volunteers.  Volunteering in a sport event is often the first time individuals engage in formal volunteering and hence host cities often aim to use events to inspire a legacy of increased and more regular community participation through enabling volunteers to reutilise their skills after the event has taken place. Despite this apparent importance and while event volunteers feature prominently in the pre- event legacy rhetoric, this interest fades somewhat rapidly once the event is over. However, there is need for more research concerning volunteer levels, to investigate whether the momentum of volunteering at a sport event could be sustained long-term. With a lack of published literature on this aspect of volunteering, it is difficult to conclude if events contribute in forming a volunteering legacy. This project seeks to monitor the number of volunteers involved at a sport event who went to volunteer at other events or projects following their experience with the event as well as the support mechanisms that were in place to assist with the aim of mobilizing and transferring volunteer efforts across activities.

Measuring breathing patterns at rest and during exercise in health individuals and people with asthma related condition

Supervisor: Dr John Dickinson, Dr Samantha Winter

Abstract: Exercise respiratory symptoms are commonly reported by elite and professional athletes. Symptoms may be related to a number of diseases and conditions, of which the most prevalent in athletes is exercise induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). Other respiratory conditions such as dysfunctional breathing (DB) are prevalent but difficult to objectively diagnose. Athletes with these conditions often receive sub-optimal diagnosis and therapy. Indeed, a large number of the athletes we see through the University of Kent Respiratory Clinic often present with significant exercise respiratory symptoms in the absence of EIB. However, the diagnosis of DB can only be made subjectively in the absence of validated robust objective measures. In the case of DB it is poorly understood how the movements of the chest and abdomen during exercise can influence tidal volume, breathing frequency and respiratory muscle functions.

In the respiratory clinic we use the POWERBreathe K5 device to help athletes develop efficient breathing techniques to maximise the power produced by the respiratory muscles. However, we have so far not quantified which type of movements of the chest and abdomen lead to the greatest power and airflow production. Optoelectronic Plethysmography (OEP) and Structured Light Plethysmography (SLP) are new techniques that can be used to quantify the movements and synchronisation of chest and abdomen wall movements during breathing. We have recently used OEP methods to identify differences in the movements of chest and abdomen during exercise in varying postures. This research has shown that OEP agrees well with changes in lung volume measured by traditional analysis techniques, and furthermore that alterations in chest wall movement provoked by posture modification do indeed alter air flow volumes. The purpose of this project is to:

  1. Investigate the relationship between chest and abdomen wall movements, respiratory muscle power and air flow-volumes in a wider variety of populations and applications.
  2. Investigate the chest and abdomen wall movements from individuals who experience EIB and/or DB.

The expected outcome of the project is an improved understanding of optimal breathing techniques that may be used to reduce symptoms and improve performance during exercise.



Effects of priming exercise on muscle VO2, torque output complexity and exercise tolerance

Supervisor: Mark Burnley, Jamie Pethick, and Samantha Winter

Abstract: The performance of prior high-intensity exercise (priming) has been repeatedly shown to influence the oxygen uptake (VO2) response to subsequent high-intensity exercise. In addition, under the right conditions (i.e., when the prior exercise is sufficiently intense and the recovery sufficiently long) priming has been demonstrated to increase the time taken to reach task failure during constant power output cycling, or to increase the power output during a time-trial effort.

The mechanistic basis of the change in the VO2 response is unclear, although it has been suggested that alterations in the muscle motor unit recruitment pattern may be involved. Fatigue has also been associated with a reduction in the complexity of muscle torque output (i.e., the pattern of torque fluctuations during muscular contractions).

It is our working hypothesis that this loss of complexity is caused by altered motor unit behaviour, which may also be responsible for the aforementioned priming effect. The aim of the present project, therefore, is to determine whether the priming effect can be observed in an isolated muscle model, better suited to identify changes in neuromuscular function than cycle ergometry.

To this end, we will perform repeated bouts of intermittent isometric contractions in a dynamometer, and will measure muscle torque output, central and peripheral fatigue, and the muscle electromyogram (EMG).

We will also monitor muscle oxygenation using Near Infrared Spectroscopy in order to estimate muscle VO2. From these measurements, we will be able to determine whether priming influences muscle VO2, fatigue parameters and muscle torque complexity for the first time.



The effect of regular exercise training on breathlessness experience of people with cardiovascular disease

Supervisor: John Dickinson, Steve Meadows

Abstract: Cardiovascular mortality rates are falling due to improved clinical management, but many individuals with cardiovascular disease have functional disabilities, including breathlessness. These impairments reduce capacity to perform activities of daily living (ADL) such as walking, basic self-care and potentially compromises independence, even several years post-event. Disability predisposes them to a chronic sedentary lifestyle, leading to further deconditioning and muscle atrophy, compounding disability and symptoms. 

Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) is markedly reduced in this population, VO2 max » 50% below a healthy age-matched population. Hypertension (HTN), is a modifiable risk factor, yet 75% of cardiovascular disease patients suffer with HTN and other modifiable risk factors (i.e. obesity). In the UK there is no systematic exercise and/or breathing training provision for chronic care of people with cardiovascular disease. Respiratory symptoms on exertion also limit the amount of physical activity this population engage with

Purpose: To investigate the impact of a weekly community-based group exercise session on key health parameters, functional capacity and respiratory patterns of cardiovascular patients.



Effects of acute exercise and chronic training on individuals with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Supervisor: James Hopker, John Dickinson

Abstract: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major public health issue. The prevalence of diagnosis in England in 2014-15 was 1.82%, which equates to over one million people. This places a considerable burden on the healthcare system as well as on the individuals living with the disease. COPD is a common, preventable disease characterized by persistent respiratory symptoms and airflow limitation. While COPD is progressive and not fully reversible, it can be managed. 

Recommended treatment includes bronchodilator therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation (PR), which can improve exercise capacity, dyspnoea and psychological wellbeing. The existing body of evidence points to the potential value of regular exercise for people with COPD, but also to the clear need for further larger-scale controlled trials that employ techniques of assessment better attuned to measuring changes that occur in the patterns and efficiency of breath control, and use of the lungs (in particular a shift from upper thoracic, shallow breathing to deeper breathing with long out-breaths supported by the diaphragm), rather than relatively crude assessments of overall lung capacity.

The central cardiorespiratory and gas exchange limitations imposed by COPD impair ambulatory skeletal muscle oxygenation during whole body exercise, restricting the capacity for exercise and the activities of daily living. However, in contrast to the attention given to pulmonary limitations, little is known about peripheral vascular changes in COPD, and the extent to which they limit exercise capacity, and whether they are response to a period of exercise training.

This aspect of the project aims to evaluate the extent to which peripheral factors per se contribute to impaired contracting lower limb muscle oxygenation in COPD patients, and whether they are response to a 6 week pulmonary rehabilitation programme.



Caffeine and immune responses to exercise: effect of CYP1A2 genotype

Supervisor:Glen Davison

Abstract: Exercise has been shown to affect most areas of the immune system in some way. Moderate exercise or training (in line with general health recommendations) is associated with enhanced immunity and lowered upper respiratory illness (URI) risk.

On the other hand, athletes participating in regular intensive training, especially endurance athletes, are more susceptible to URI and strategies to maintain or enhance immunity are of benefit to such individuals. Endurance athletes have high training loads and may undergo periods of intensified training. As such, interventions that can help to enhance immunity and reduce URI risk are desirable for such athletes.  

Caffeine has been studied extensively as an ergogenic aid in Sport and Exercise Sciences, but there is also some evidence showing that caffeine supplementation may protect some components of immune function (such as salivary immunoglobulin A, IgA, secretion) in response to physiological stressors like prolonged exercise.

The general caffeine research shows large inter-subject variability (in performance measures) in response to caffeine, with some individuals suggested to be caffeine non-responders. Recent research has suggested that this is related to genetic factors, and a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the CYP1A2 gene has been identified as a key predictor of responses to caffeine. This gene codes for cytochrome P450, which is responsible for 95% of caffeine metabolism in the body.

Therefore, this SNP determines the rate of caffeine handling and metabolism in the body after ingestion. A number of recent studies have found differences in the magnitude of enhancement in endurance performance between participants who are AA homozygous (fast metabolisers) compared to those who carry a C allele (AC and CC, slow metabolisers).

However, there is limited research on the effects of this SNP on immune responses to exercise and URI risk. The purpose of this project is to determine the effects of CYP1A2 gene SNPs on immune responses to exercise.

Please note, there is a £400 bench fee associated with this project to cover the costs associated with genotyping.

Caffeine, CYP1A2 Genotype, muscle function and torque complexity in fatigued and non-fatigued states

Supervisor: Glen Davison, Mark Burnley

Abstract: The ergogenic effects of caffeine have been extensively researched in Sport and Exercise Sciences. Performance benefits have been observed across a wide variety of exercise types, from endurance performance, intermittent exercise, maximal-intensity exercise and strength performance.

However, findings are more varied for shorter duration/higher-intensity performance with equivocal findings for the effects of caffeine on maximal intensity exercise or muscle force production. Furthermore, large inter-subject variability is frequently reported (across all exercise types), with a proportion of individuals suggested to be caffeine non-responders.

Recent research has suggested that this is related to genetic factors, and a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the CYP1A2 gene has been identified as a key predictor of responses to caffeine.

This gene codes for cytochrome P450, which is responsible for 95% of caffeine metabolism in the body. Therefore, this SNP determines the rate of caffeine handling and metabolism in the body after ingestion. A number of recent studies have found differences in the magnitude of enhancement in endurance performance between participants who are AA homozygous (fast metabolisers) compared to those who carry a C allele (AC and CC, slow metabolisers).

However, there is limited research on the effects of this SNP on other types of performance (other than endurance exercise). Recent research has also demonstrated that caffeine influences the loss of torque complexity that occurs with fatigue. It has been shown that a loss of physiological complexity indicates a loss of system function and adaptability. 

Thus, interventions that maintain complexity in the face of changes like fatigue can potentially improve exercise tolerance, but we also need to understand whether CYP1A2 genotype has any influence on this parameter.

Please note, there is a £400 bench fee associated with this project to cover the costs associated with genotyping.

The impact of community-based physical activity on the thoracolumbar fascia in sedentary people with lower back pain: an ultrasound imaging study

Supervisor:Kyra De Coninck

Abstract: Chronic lower back pain remains a poorly understood multi-factorial condition, associated with reduced quality of life and function.

Traditionally, research in lower back pain has focused on vertebrae, trunk muscles, motor control and biopsychosocial factors. Despite this substantial body of research, chronic lower back pain remains a prevalent global issue affecting health and well-being. 

Recently, the thoracolumbar fascia has been recognised to play a role in the pathophysiology of chronic lower back pain. Currently, no studies have investigated the effect of a training programme on the thoracolumbar fascia of sedentary people with lower back pain.

This project seeks to advance methods of analysis as well as furthering our understanding of role thoracolumbar fascia plays in chronic lower back pain:

  1. by measuring the thickness and echogenicity of thoracolumbar fascia in people with lower back pain, using a grey-scale analysis of ultrasound images.
  2. by measuring the impact of an increase in physical activity on the thickness and echogenicity of the thoracolumbar fascia in sedentary individuals, and comparing these findings to a matched control group.

Previous cross-sectional studies have revealed that echogenicity of thoracolumbar fascia was found to be significantly higher in people with chronic lower back pain compared to those without lower back pain.

This could be an indicator of an altered collagen fiber density or fibrosis of the specialised connective tissues in people with lower back pain.

This project will expand on these findings and explore whether an altered structure is reversible by investigating the effect of tissue loading on the structure of the thoracolumbar fascia in sedentary humans.

The project will contribute to the emerging field of research into the pathophysiology of the human fascial system. 



Wearables in Rehabilitation (specific project title dependent on pathway taken)

Supervisor:Dr Karen Hambly

Abstract: In many health conditions, smart technology in the form of wearables are being used for objective assessment of physical activity and sedentary behaviour.

New developments have resulted in devices that can now differentiate between different types of activity and intensity of the activity rather than just measuring daily steps and total sedentary time. Previous research has not shown any significant differences in daily steps between knee OA, knee TKA and heathy age matched groups.

New technologies have resulted in devices that can now differentiate between different types of activity and intensity of the activity rather than just measuring daily steps and total sedentary time.

Considering quality of physical activity and differentiating between functional activities and the intensity of these activities will provide a greater insight into how someone is functioning in free-living that can help guide rehabilitation and management of health conditions.

There are potentially four pathways available within this overall project title, with a maximum of one applicant accepted for each. These are: 

  • Pathway 1- Comparing age-matched healthy individuals vs. people with knee OA in free-living.
  • Pathway 2 - Comparing age-matched healthy individuals vs. people with stroke in free-living (in conjunction with Steve Meadows). 
  • Pathway 3 - Comparing age-matched healthy individuals vs. people with Parkinson’s in free-living (in conjunction with Steve Meadows).
  • Pathway 4 - Co-activation pattern of hamstrings and quadriceps in healthy individuals during free-living activities.


3D Movement Analysis and Quantification of Upper limb Physical Activity After Primary Total Shoulder Replacement

Supervisor: Karthikeyan Muthumayandi and Prof. Bijayendra Singh - Lead Clinician in Trauma & Orthopaedics, Medway NHS Foundation Trust

Abstract: Because of the increase in life expectancy, there is an increase in age-related complications resulting in orthopaedic shoulder pathology. Osteoarthritis and rotator cuff disease are two degenerative conditions most commonly identified as causing pain and disability in the ageing population. Although different forms of intervention are available to treat the degenerative shoulder pathologies, a Total Shoulder replacement (TSR) is considered the gold standard treatment due to its reliable pain relief, predictable improvement of function, and enhanced quality of life in patients with severe osteoarthritis. 

In the recent years TSRs are being performed with increasing frequency in the UK. In 2017 there were 7,693 shoulder procedures performed in the UK (NJR). With improvements in the patient selection, modern prosthetic design and operative techniques there are high patient satisfaction and prosthetic survival following a TSR.

The success of the outcome of TSR was assessed by the reduction in pain, radiological finding; patients reported outcome measure (PROMS), prosthetic survival, quality of life measures and clinical findings like the range of motion through goniometer. However, there are only very few researches which look at the quality and quantity of shoulder movement after the surgery. In the recent past, there is an acknowledgement and emphasis for the need to conduct more research to look at the quality (kinematic analysis) and quantity of movement in the shoulder following the TSR.

The primary objective of this research is to examine the quality of functional movement (3D kinematic analysis using Qualisys motion capture System) and Quantity of the movement (Tri-Axial Accelerometer -Axivity Monitor) before and after TSR along with other measures like comorbidity, quality of life, radiological measure, QOL and the PROMS.



Sustainability of Physical Activity and Health Programs

Supervisor:Dr. Niki Koutrou

Abstract: Physical activity (PA) is a key component of well-being, as it affects people’s psychological state, physical health and community connectedness. There is evidence to suggest that PA and sport can also play a role in preventing mental health problems [1]. For example, engagement in PA can reduce someone’s risk of depression by up to 30%, and thus, doctors should recommend PA to people suffering from depression [2].

Physical activity, however, can increase individual’s ‘capacity to do well despite adverse experience’ (p.37) [4]. In addition, PA can facilitate social integration and social cohesion through individual’s participation in civil organisations such as physical activity groups, exercise clubs or community organisations [5]. Considering the above, PA is often used by governments as a tool to promote public health. To this end, a vast range of PA programs are often introduced to tackle inactivity and to engage hard to reach members of the population.

However, sport and PA programs are often challenged with sustainability, once the initial resources and impetus that created them have subsided and funding is discontinued [6]. Various factors affect a program’s sustainability, most notably financial stability, a clear vision to achieve outcomes, lack of early planning for sustainability as well as social and political support and trust on the program [7]. Program sustainability can be better understood, when it forms part of the program process, including formulation, implementation, and evaluation [6].

Systematic research on the sustainability and maintenance of programs is still at its infancy, and little attempt has been made to identify factors that influence sustainability of programs beyond the end of the grant period. It also seems that program termination is counterproductive when the issue that the intervention was established to address remains or recurs [6, 7]. The overarching aim of this proposed study is to evaluate the potential for maintaining a selected PA program in the community and to evaluate the different factors that may have an impact in its sustainability potential. To this end, the study will seek to examine what elements of sustainability were realised while attempting to develop the local populations’ health. 

The overarching objectives of the study are to identify and evaluate:

  • How and why did the programme develop?
  • Which stakeholders were involved at each stage of the project cycle?
  • What planning was made for program sustainability?
  • What were the perceived impacts of the project when this was proposed?
  • How participants were thought to be recruited?
  • What were the projected costs of running the project?
  • What was the Impact and Reach of the Program?
  • What was the Impact of the Partnership between the different stakeholder Groups?
  • What steps were taken to ensure program sustainability for future years?
  • Whether there were appropriate support structures in place to facilitate the sustainability of the program?
  • Which aspects of the experience with the program could be improved for future editions of the program?
  • Which specific factors play a role in the sustainability and maintenance of the program?


The acute effect of exercise on BDNF levels on people with Parkinson’s

Supervisor: Glen Davison, Steve Meadows

Abstract: There are 145,000 people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) in the UK which represents around 1 person in every 350 (Parkinson’s UK, 2018). Exercise is a recognised method to help manage the array of PD symptoms, e.g. sleep problems, fatigue, mood and mental health, as well as slow the progression of the motor symptoms. Whilst the benefits of exercise are well-known, the biological mechanisms that cause these effects are less clear.

Evidence is emerging, however further research is needed to inform future treatment of PD. Some preliminary evidence in human and animal studies has suggested that neurotrophic factors (such as brain derived neurotrophic factor, BDNF), which are released in response to exercise, may be implicated in the exercise benefits. Neurotrophic factors are important biological substances produced within the brain/CNS, but also in skeletal muscle during exercise, which are important for brain neuroplasticity, survival, differentiation and neuronal growth and have important roles in many brain and cognitive functions. 

There is now a substantial body of evidence showing that physical activity induces neurobiological adaptations (including improved cognitive function) and that this may be related to exercise-induced release of neurotrophic factors (e.g. BDNF) from skeletal muscle (Campos et al., 2016; Coelho et al., 2012). The effects of exercise on neurotrophic factors has been reported numerous times in many independent studies, but there is limited work on older people and very little work in a PD population.

Purpose: To investigate the impact of exercise on BDNF levels, functional and cognitive capacity in a PD population. This will be a laboratory-based study.

Please note, there is a £400 bench fee associated with this project to cover the costs associated with the measurement of BDNF.

The effect of milk on exercise performance, inflammation and severity of exercise induced bronchospasm (EIB) in athletes with EIB and asthma

Supervisor: John Dickinson, Glen Davison

Abstract: Asthma and exercise induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) are more prevalent in athletic populations than in the general populations.

Asthma and EIB are obstructive airway diseases that are driven by inflammatory processes that occur in the walls of the small airways. It has also been suggested that exercise-induced increases in intestinal permeability (often colloquially referred to as ‘leaky gut’) are mechanistically linked to systemic inflammatory responses, and also immune dysfunction.

Indeed, this may be one pathway linking stress (including exercise), nutrition and inflammatory processes to EIB. It may also have wider implications (i.e. gut health/damage, immune function and general wellbeing even in non-EIB sufferers).

It has been shown that changing inflammatory status in the gut may cause a signalling processes that will effects the inflammatory cell release in the small airways, which may impact on asthma severity.

It is possible that regular cows’ milk containing A1 beta-casein within the diet may exacerbate EIB. A proposed mechanism is that A1 beta casein produces beta casomorphin 7 (peptide fragment from A1 beta casein with opioid activity) upon digestion which is liked to EIB/asthma.

It is also possible that replacing regular cows’ milk containing A1 beta-casein with A2 milk may help to improve immune th1/th2 balance, which is another possible immune pathway linked to inflammation.

It is unknown if athletes with asthma and EIB who use A2 milk will improve airway health, inflammatory profile, immune function and exercise performance, or indeed whether it may help to modulate inflammatory responses to exercise in general.



Psychological and Psychobiological Determinants of Endurance Performance

Supervisor: Professor Samuele Marcora, Dr Chris Fullerton

Abstract: We are conducting a research programme on the psychological/psychobiological factors that can influence endurance performance.

As part of this research programme, the MSc student will conduct an experiment to establish the effects of a psychological or psychobiological manipulation on endurance performance and relevant psychological/biological mechanisms.

The chosen manipulation can either be an intervention aimed at improving endurance performance (e.g., self-talk) or a factor that may have a negative effect (e.g., sleep deprivation). By conducting this project, the MSc student will learn how to conduct human performance research using an interdisciplinary approach that combines exercise physiology with motivation psychology and cognitive neuroscience.



Perceived effort and physical activity behaviour

Supervisor:Professor Samuele Marcora, Dr Chris Fullerton

Abstract: We are conducting a research programme on the psychobiology of physical activity behaviour. As part of this research programme, the MSc student will conduct an experimental or a correlational study to investigate the role of perceived effort and its interaction with motivational factors in determining physical activity behaviour.

We are particularly interested in effort-based decision-making and the physical activity behaviour of people with obesity.

By conducting this project, the MSc student will learn how to conduct physical activity research using an interdisciplinary approach that combines exercise physiology with motivation psychology and cognitive neuroscience.



The effect of regular exercise training on breathlessness experience of people with cardiovascular disease

Supervisor: Dr Steve Meadows, Dr John Dickinson,

Abstract:Cardiovascular mortality rates are falling due to improved clinical management, but many individuals with cardiovascular disease have functional disabilities, including breathlessness. These impairments reduce capacity to perform activities of daily living (ADL) such as walking, basic self-care and potentially compromises independence, even several years post-event. Disability predisposes them to a chronic sedentary lifestyle, leading to further deconditioning and muscle atrophy, compounding disability and symptoms. Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) is markedly reduced in this population, VO2max »50% below a healthy age-matched population. Hypertension (HTN), is a modifiable risk factor, yet 75% of cardiovascular disease patients suffer with HTN and other modifiable risk factors (i.e. obesity). In the UK there is no systematic exercise and/or breathing training provision for chronic care of people with cardiovascular disease. Respiratory symptoms on exertion also limit the amount of physical activity this population engage with. 


PURPOSE: To investigate the impact of a weekly community-based group exercise session on key health parameters, functional capacity and respiratory patterns of cardiovascular patients.

Effects of a group-based exercise programme on dual-task performance in patients with Parkinson's Disease

Supervisor: Dr Chris Fullerton, Dr Steve Meadows, Dr Glen Davison

Abstract:Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterised by motor and cognitive impairment. Exercise programmes may be an effective strategy to delay or reverse the decline in global function. Although there is evidence that exercise has beneficial effects with regard to health, quality of life, gait, balance and functional abilities, there is insufficient evidence to support its effectiveness for reducing falls or cognitive impairments. 


PD is associated with a variety of cognitive impairments, including executive dysfunction, attention, memory, language and poor visual-spatial processing. Such impairments may increase the risk of falling under dual-task conditions, which require the simultaneous performance of cognitive or motor tasks (e.g., walking while performing concurrent tasks such as memory recall or carrying an object) (Kelly et al., 2012); or sequential-task conditions, which require the performance after two consecutive acts (i.e., one task after a temporal interval). Motor features associated with increased risk of falling include posture, postural stability and gait, and are further exacerbated in PD. The consequences of gait impairments in PD include increased disability, fear of falling, low mood, and reduced quality of life (Schrag et al., 2015). 

 

n-3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids, attentional control and decision making in team sport athletes

Supervisor: Dr Chris Fullerton, Lucy Hale, Dr Glen Davison

Abstract:Team sports that require high-intensity intermittent running places significant perceptual-motor demands on athletes. Staying attentive to specific cues (e.g., receiving a pass from a teammate) under these conditions therefore becomes increasingly difficult over time and lapses in this ability should thus incur performance decrements. Precisely, when attentional demands increase, the availability of resources for maintaining physical and skilled performance decreases.

Recent research suggests that the effects of exercise on the brain can be augmented by concurrent consumption of omega 3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in particular DHA fish oils. DHA is the most prevalent polyunsaturated fatty acid in human brain grey matter and synaptic membranes. It is known to increase the fluidity of cell membranes more so than other PUFA’s, and exert neurotrophic effects. Typically, previous research has focused on the inflammatory-reducing and cardiovascular effects of n-3 PUFA supplementation in exercising individuals. Additional effects are now thought to involve intracellular pathways important for neurogenesis and cognitive function. Much of the developed world consume less than 200mg per day of EPA and DHA and dietary data analysis of athletes suggest that trained individuals are at risk of suboptimal n-3 intake. This raises the question if these amounts are sufficient to support optimal brain function and in particular cognitive performance. 

The current project would look to extend the limited previous examination of n-3 PUFA supplementation on attentional control and decision-making in team sport settings. Assessment would involve the use of the dual-task paradigm to provide a contextually valid assessment of perceptual-motor ability under simulated competitive conditions. 

Project bench fees  £133