Predictive value and modification of cardiovascular responses to stress

Topic headline: Predictive value and modification of cardiovascular responses to stress

Category: PhD research project

Institution: University of Derby

Department: Psychology

PhD supervisor: Professor David Sheffield

Application deadline: Applications accepted all year round

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD student only

Project description

This project would build on work relating to the reactivity hypothesis and the theory of challenge and threat states in athletes: individuals who show specific response patterns to stress are more likely to develop hypertension and may perform poorly under pressure on a range of activities (from netballing shootouts to exams). Measuring blood pressure and heart rate, and underlying physiology (cardiac output and total peripheral resistance), before, during and after tasks non-invasively permits us to characterize individuals’ responses to a range of tasks.

The PhD could focus on children where initial work has indicated the predictive power of blood pressure responses, but little work on underlying physiology has been completed.  Alternatively, the preparation of athletes before competition could be studied; our previous work has indicated that anticipatory physiological responses predict subsequent performance. Or interventions (e.g. compassion focused imagery) to alter physiological responses could be developed and their consequences assessed. The direction of the project would be decided by the student in collaboration with the supervisors and the specific interests of the PhD student would be incorporated into the project.


Background research

Jones M, Meijen C, McCarthy PJ, & Sheffield D (2009). A Theory of Challenge and Threat States in Athletes. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2, 161 - 180.

Treiber FA, Kamarck T, Schneiderman N, Sheffield D, Kapuku G, Taylor T. (2003). Cardiovascular reactivity and development of preclinical and clinical disease states. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 46-62.


PhD study at the University of Derby

The University of Derby is pleased to welcome applications from self-funded or externally sponsored students for programmes of research in this or related areas, beginning from September 2012. Applications are welcome from students wishing to study full time or part time, and from students in employment who have the support of their employers.

The University of Derby provides PhD students with a range of facilities and support, including dedicated office space, PC and IT facilities, and library services, and all PhD students in Psychology are members of the Centre for Psychological Research, an active community of psychological researchers.

At the University of Derby, the Traditional Route PhD is taken by students who already have a Masters level qualification that includes research methods. Students without previous Masters level training in research methods take the New Route PhD, which includes training in research methods.

Have a look at the application process details and fee information.


Enquiry contact details

Professor David Sheffield