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Department of Cognitive Science

Magnetoencephalographic (MEG) studies of atypical cortical activity in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Aston and Macquarie Universities invite applications from suitable candidates for a jointly funded, dual award PhD project on MEG studies of ASD. The successful candidate will study a minimum of 1.5 years at each site, with a maximum total duration of 4 years. The project will commence at the Aston Brain Centre in the UK and will be conducted under the supervision of Professors Klaus Kessler and Gina Rippon. Subject to successful progression to Macquarie University (see Further Particulars), the project will then be supervised by Professor Blake Johnson and Dr Jon Brock.

This studentship is fully funded to cover tuition fees for UK/EU and Australia/New Zealand applicants for 4 years. No other Overseas Applicants. An additional tax-free stipend will be payable for the first 3 years; if required a 4th ‘writing up‘ year can be taken at Aston, but no stipend will be available. The (2015/16) stipend is £14,057 (Aston) or approx. $27,764 AUD (Macquarie) per annum, paid pro-rata during the time the student is based at the respective institution. The anticipated Registration date at Aston University is 1st October 2015.

Eligible Applicants should hold a Bachelor Honours degree (either First Class or Upper Second Class) and a Master’s Degree (MSc/MRes) with a major research component in a relevant discipline. Applicants should provide a clear indication of their specific interest in the project and their relevant skills if applicable. Experience with MEG/EEG measurements and analysis is desirable.

Further details of this studentship are available from Further Particulars, which potential applicants are required to consult.


Diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) currently involves the use of complex and, ultimately, subjective interview and observation schedules. Research is needed to identify reliable ASD markers to minimize subjectivity. Recently, a shift away from observed social deficits towards anomalies in local connectivity within and between sensory modalities was proposed (e.g. Rippon et al., 2007). Thus, novel ASD markers based on psychophysical thresholds in conjunction with neural oscillations and connectivity measures are particularly promising. Gamma frequency in sensory areas seems to reflect short-range connectivity during perceptual processing, while theta phase-coupling within widespread cortical networks has been linked to long-range connectivity and information integration (e.g. Bögels et al., in press). Hence, better ‘markers’ of ASD based on psychophysical thresholds linked with neural oscillations and connectivity measures could enhance our understanding of the underlying processes, enabling positive consequences such as earlier identification and special support for individuals with ASD. The project further aims to elucidate the causal relationship between such novel neuronal markers and social and language processing in order to establish novel theoretical approaches for explaining autism.


For further enquiries please contact,

  • Professors Klaus Kessler (
  • Gina Rippon (
  • Blake Johnson (
  • Jon Brock (


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