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Providing multisensory support to improve older adults’ cognitive abilities

  • School: School of Social Sciences
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2023
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2023

Project ID: S3 12

With advancing healthcare and increased standards of living, the proportion of older adults in society is now higher than ever and is set to rise further over the coming decades. A key focus of research is to ensure that individuals maintain their cognitive abilities and quality of life into an extended old age. This studentship will explore whether age-related cognitive deficits can be alleviated by presenting information in more than one sensory modality, to compensate for deficits in hearing and vision.

Hearing impairment affects 71% of adults over 70 and more than 96% of those aged over 50 wear glasses at least some of the time. A well-established feature of age-related sensory loss (such as impaired vision and hearing) is its association with corresponding age-related deficits in cognition (such as memory and paying attention). Some patterns of age deficits in cognition can even be replicated in young adults by reducing their ability to perceive experimental stimuli: For example, if a list of items is degraded so that it is harder to see, young adults will find it harder to remember that list than a list of easy-to-see items. This suggests that perceptual processes are taking up cognitive resources that might otherwise have been used to perform the cognitive task. Such findings therefore demonstrate the potential to improve cognitive performance by facilitating perception.

A variety of recent research has shown that multisensory stimuli can alleviate age deficits by supporting cognitively-demanding perceptual processing. However, this is a new area of research and many questions remain about how different cognitive abilities are affected by multisensory stimuli, whether the benefits relate to processing speed, or accuracy, or both, and whether the multisensory benefit is greater for older adults with worse hearing and/or vision. Your PhD work will contribute to this growing literature. Your research will have the potential to inform how older adults communicate, pay attention, and memorise information, and may help older adults improve their quality of life and retain independence in old age.


Roberts, K.L., & Allen, H.A. (2016). Perception and cognition in the ageing brain: A brief review of the short- and long-term links between perceptual and cognitive decline. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 8:39. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2016.00039

Supervisory Team:

Director of Studies: Dr Kate Roberts, Senior Lecturer of Cognitive Psychology, NTU Psychology

2nd Supervisor: Dr Stephen Badham, Associate Professor of Cognitive Ageing, NTU Psychology

3rd Supervisor: Prof Suvo Mitra, ADR NTU Psychology

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

To make an application, please visit our studentship application page.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2023 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Application guidance can be found on our studentship application page.

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