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Doctoral student in a lab

Effect of exercise on cognitive function, self-control and resilience in young people with ADHD

  • School: School of Science and Technology
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / Fully-funded


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder in young people and affects around 5% of children and adolescents worldwide. ADHD is characterised by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Young people with ADHD typically struggle academically, with a likely mechanism being the negative effects of the condition on cognitive performance, psychological well-being and behaviour. ADHD is most commonly treated with pharmacological interventions (i.e., medication); yet such medications have a number of negative side-effects including high blood pressure, sleep problems and mood disturbances, whilst numerous non-pharmacological interventions have limited efficacy. Therefore, there is huge potential for an intervention aimed at enhancing cognitive performance and psychological outcomes in young people with ADHD; with one such intervention being physical activity. Physical activity is a potentially attractive therapeutic intervention given that it has been shown to enhance certain aspects of cognition, such as executive control, that are typically affected in young people with ADHD.

This PhD will be centred around 4 experimental studies that examine the effect of physical activity on cognitive function, self-control and resilience in young people with ADHD. These studies are likely to include a study to examine the acute effects of a single bout of activity, alongside a training study to look at the long-term effects. Studies will also look to examine the optimal dose (i.e. modality, intensity and duration) of exercise for cognition, self-control and resilience, in young people with ADHD. Finally, the mechanisms responsible for these effects will also be examined, using technologies such as electroencephalography (EEG) and near infra-red spectroscopy (NIRS).

The successful candidate will have a strong academic background in Sport and Exercise Science and/or Psychology. Experience of working with young people is also desirable, including young people with ADHD where possible.

Entry requirements: First or Upper second class degree or equivalent in Psychology or Sport and Exercise Sciences.

Duration: typical three years full time

Funding: competition funded project for UK and European students only. This PhD project is match funded by the Waterloo Foundation and Nottingham Trent University.

Start date: April 2020


Dr Simon Cooper

Dr Mustafa Sarker

Dr Ruth Boat

Prof Mary Nevill

Entry qualifications

Essential: First class or upper second class honours degree in a relevant undergraduate degree programme such as psychology or sport and exercise sciences.

Desirable: Masters degree in a relevant programme of study such as psychology or sport and exercise sciences.

How to apply

How to apply

The deadline for applications is 11:59 pm on 10 January 2020.

Interviews will take place between the end of January and early February.

Download an application form here.

Please note that for this PhD position there is no requirement to produce a 1 page research proposal.

Please make sure you take a look at our application guidance notes before making your application.

Further information on how to apply can be found on this page.

Fees and funding

Competition funded project for Uk and European students only.

Guidance and support

Further guidance and support on how to apply can be found on this page.

Still need help?

Dr Simon Cooper