Leverhulme Doctoral Training Programme
for the Ecological Study of the Brain



Understanding how humans operate in the real-world, the ecological niche in which the brain has evolved, is critical to explaining the richness of human experiences. Most scientific knowledge about brain and behaviour, however, comes from laboratory studies focusing on a single domain (e.g., language processing) and sacrifice real-world context to achieve experimental control (e.g., recognition of isolated words rather than face-to-face communication).

At the other end of the spectrum, scholars studying real-world phenomena often sacrifice experimental control in order to conduct studies in naturalistic settings. Laboratory experiments, however, often have limited external validity, while naturalistic approaches are descriptive, and therefore do not address causal relationships between brain, behaviour and the environment.


To explain the inherent richness of human experiences, a radical change in approach to brain and behavioural research is needed that enables future leaders to harness and further develop new methods and technologies - part of the digital revolution - to measure behaviour and brain activity in the wild (e.g., wearable devices and wireless electroencephalography), to bring real-world complexity into the lab (e.g., virtual and augmented reality, large-scale modifiable real-world facilities, rethinking traditional lab-based paradigms for fMRI or MEG imaging) and to analyse the wealth of data these methods produce (e.g., blind signal source separation, graph- theoretic analysis).

Benefits of being part of a cross-disciplinary Doctoral Training Programme.

The great benefit of our DTP is that students gain great experience of different scientific disciplines and styles, through rotation projects, through engaging with interdisciplinary teams of supervisors and also more generally through dedicated training and social activities. DTPs actively allow students to meet and mix with academics and peers from across the host institutions. This is further augmented by the Ecological Brain DTP network with a tight-knit cohort of accepted students forming each year.

Training and skills development for careers.

Our students will produce world-leading science in collaboration with world-class scientists, and we believe that ensuring that our students are ready for life after their PhD is just as important.  Our DTP specifically supports students to undertake advanced training, visit labs in the UK and overseas, and provides rare opportunities to develop transferable skills that enhance career prospects in and outside academia.