This grant is now closed.

The Encephalitis Society invited Aston University to host the 2019 Encephalitis Society PhD Fellowship. Encephalitis Society Fellowships enable outstanding graduates to obtain a postgraduate PhD research qualification, giving them the required skills to ultimately undertake an independent career in Encephalitis research.

This new PhD fellowship, jointly funded by the Encephalitis Society and Aston University, will commence in 2019 under the supervision of paediatric neurologist Dr Sukhvir Wright and neuropsychologist Professor Amanda Wood. Recruiting for the PHD fellow has started in April 2019. 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 describing >80% 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) and magneto encephalopathy (MEG) and neuropsychological assessments. This information will allow is to identify the link between structural MRI lesions, brain activity, clinical presentation and subsequent cognitive outcomes in these patients. Early identification of patients at risk of cognitive problems will allow treating clinicians to focus and consolidate treatments on those most at risk, including targeted neuropsychological interventions.  This study will dovetail with another study led by Professor Amanda Wood which is aiming to identify predictors of risk and resilience for poor neuropsychological outcome following childhood brain injuries. This will give the ability to compare the outcomes of immune-mediated encephalitis with other children that have suffered brain injuries and understand if there are common early brain features that predict outcomes or if they are unique to the encephalitis patients.

The study will be hosted by the Aston Brain Centre (ABC) (part of Aston University, Birmingham), an integrated research environment for the study of neurodevelopment in health and disease. The ABC is the only U.K. 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 is at the heart of every child’s management plan.