Following a public appeal for applications, the Encephalitis Society has invited Aston University to host its 2019 Encephalitis Society Silver Jubilee PhD Fellowship (writes Dr Sukhvir Wright, Research Fellow - Aston Brain Centre).

This new PhD fellowship will commence in Autumn 2019 under the supervision of paediatric neurologist Dr Sukhvir Wright and neuropsychologist Professor Amanda Wood. This PhD will result in improved knowledge of long-term cognitive and behavioural outcomes following childhood encephalitis. Recognition of paediatric autoimmune/ immune-mediated encephalitis (e.g. NMDAR-Ab encephalitis) has rapidly increased over the last ten years.

While we are apparently succeeding in the diagnosis and identification and even early treatment of this type of encephalitis, with studies showing that >80% of patients are making a 'good' recovery, we are now recognising that a 'good' medical outcome does not cover the neuropsychological, social and behavioural sequelae that are seen in these patients. This fellowship will recruit patients with autoimmune/ immune-mediated encephalitis, in retrospective and prospective cohorts, along with healthy and disease controls to identify predictors of poor outcome/ recovery using a combination of brain scans such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), magneto encephalopathy (MEG) and neuropsychological assessments. This information will allow the study to identify the link between structural MRI lesions, brain activity, clinical presentation and subsequent cognitive outcomes in these patients.

Professor Amanda Wood

Early identification of patients at risk of cognitive problems will allow treating clinicians to focus treatments on those most at risk, including targeted neuropsychological interventions.   

The study will be hosted by the Aston Brain Centre (ABC) at Aston University, Birmingham, an integrated research environment for the study of neurodevelopment in health and disease.

The ABC is the only UK paediatric imaging research facility with MEG expertise, and so the fellowship will support development of unique skills of the appointed PhD scholar. They will receive training in MEG and MRI analysis, which, combined with knowledge of the neurological and neuropsychological factors associated with immune-mediated encephalitis, will enable them to pursue a career in encephalitis research.

This interdisciplinary clinical study aligns strongly with the 2019 Encephalitis Society research theme of ‘recovery and rehabilitation,’ and offers an unparalleled opportunity for an outstanding graduate to undertake a research project that aspires to transform the treatment of paediatric immune-mediated encephalitis by ensuring that optimal recovery and rehabilitation are at the heart of every child’s management plan.


Titulaer, M.J., et al. (2013) Treatment and prognostic factors for long-term outcome in patients with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis: an observational cohort study.

Lancet Neurology 12: 157-165.

Wright, S., et al. (2015) N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antibody-mediated neurological disease: results of a UK-based surveillance study in children. Archives of Disease in Childhood 100: 521-526.

Armangue, T., et al. (2013) Pediatric anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor encephalitis-clinical analysis and novel findings in a series of 20 patients. Journal of Pediatrics 162: 850-856.

Gordon-Lipkin, E., et al. (2017) Comparative Outcomes in Children and Adults With Anti- N-Methyl-D-Aspartate (anti-NMDA) Receptor Encephalitis. Journal of Child Neurology 32: 930-935.