Postgraduate study

Clinical Brain Sciences

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding available

Programme website: Clinical Brain Sciences

The Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences (CCBS; Director Professor Siddharthan Chandran) integrates laboratory and clinical research to study the causes, consequences and treatment of major brain disorders.

Anchored in the Edinburgh Bioquarter at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, and with bases at three other Edinburgh hospital sites, the centre subscribes to Edinburgh Medical School’s "One Health" vision: laboratory scientists, clinical academics and informaticians work alongside each other, to encourage the free-flowing exchange of ideas, the efficient use of clinical data, and joint academic/health service delivery.

CCBS is part of Edinburgh Neuroscience, an umbrella organisation that facilitates interaction among researchers, working at all levels of neuroscience from molecules through synapses and networks to cognition and behaviour. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (2014), Edinburgh was ranked 3rd out of 82 submissions in Neuroscience and the research environment was given the maximum possible score - 100%, world-leading.

CCBS comprises 60 Principal Investigators - including 21 Chairs - of whom 70% are active NHS clinicians. The Centre’s 400+ members conduct research of international recognition and reputation: they attracted c.£40M in grant-funding over the last three years and collaborate widely, leading international clinical trials in stroke (e.g. IST-3) and dementia (e.g. EPAD), while The National CJD Research and Surveillance Unit is a World Health Organization Reference Centre for Human Prion Disease. The research generates significant and measurable impact in terms of patient health and wellbeing, NHS policy and economy, and public awareness.

Major disease-specific research strengths are:

  • Brain vascular disease including stroke (Professors Dennis, Macleod, Mead, Salman, Sudlow & Wardlaw; Drs Doubal & Whiteley)
  • Neuroimaging (Professors Wardlaw, Farrall, Marshall & Sellar; Drs Bastin, MacGillivray, Mair, Pernet, Thrippleton & Valdes-Hernandez)
  • Psychiatry, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression (Professors Lawrie, McIntosh, Owens & Thomson; Drs Johnstone, Russ & Whalley), autism and learning disability (Drs McKechanie, Stanfield & Fletcher-Watson)
  • Prion diseases (Professors Will, Ironside & Knight; Drs Green, Head & Molesworth)
  • Neurodegenerative diseases: multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, dementias (Professors Chandran, Ritchie & Smith; Drs Connick, de Sousa, Dhillon, Hunt, Mahad, Muniz-Terrera & Pal)
  • Synaptic Biology & Disease (Professor Grant; Drs Komiyama, Sylantyev & Wang)
  • Epilepsy (Dr Chin)
  • Neonatal development & the effect of premature birth (Dr Boardman)
  • Neuro-oncology / Translational Neurosurgery (Drs Grant, Brennan & Hughes)
  • Functional Disorders (Drs Stone & Carson)
  • Sleep medicine (Dr Riha)

For more information, see our website:

Postgraduate students are mentored and supported by at least two supervisors and receive long-term guidance from their thesis committee.

We offer a transferable skills programme and project-specific courses, including opportunities to become involved in science communication and public engagement.

PhD meetings and an annual CCBS Day provide valuable opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Clinical research and trials

Direct clinical links, Specialist Centres of Excellence, well characterised patient cohorts, national biobanks and disease registers permit detailed phenotyping for surveillance, clinical epidemiological studies and trials.

Find more information on the research centres:

The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic provides an interface between patients and researchers and space to conduct studies. We also have expertise in meta-analysis & systematic review (e.g. CAMARADES, Cochrane Stroke Group).


CCBS is part of Edinburgh Imaging, which provides state-of the-art imaging for preclinical and clinical studies: 1.5T research MR scanner; 3T MR scanner; PET MRI, PET-CT; 7T animal MR; image analysis suites including fMRI compatible EEG.


We are expert in detailed pathological analysis of post-mortem human brain tissue, and run the Edinburgh Brain and Tissue Banks (part of the MRC UK Brain Banks Network). The Edinburgh Brain Banks include CJD, HIV, stroke, motor neurone disease, dementia and sudden death banks.

Laboratory research including stem cell biology

Our laboratories are fully equipped for molecular biology, protein biochemistry & cell biology research, including large-scale studies (e.g., molecular analyses of multiprotein complexes at the synapse). CCBS researchers use patient-derived (induced pluripotent) and human embryonic stem cells to model disease processes using confocal microscopy, electrophysiology, FACS and biochemistry.

Translational neurosurgery

An emerging area of interest for CCBS, the research aims to inform, enable and accelerate the translation of advances from the laboratory to the operating theatre, with a focus on neuro-oncology.

Research methodologies

Find more information on our research methodologies on our website

A UK 2:1 honours degree or its international equivalent.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

All applicants must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of their English language ability:

  • an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 (at least 6.0 in each module)
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 92 (at least 20 in each module)
  • PTE(A): total 61 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections; the "Enabling Skills" sections are not considered)
  • CAE and CPE: total 176 (at least 169 in each module)
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components

Degrees taught and assessed in English must be no more than two and a half years old at the beginning of your degree programme. Language tests must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.

Find out more about our language requirements:

For detailed information on fee status, policies and payment see:

You will be responsible for securing funding to cover all your tuition fees, additional fees and living costs for the duration of your studies. For guidelines on living costs see:

  • Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • The Chancellor's Building, 49 Little France Crescent
  • Little France
  • Edinburgh
  • EH16 4SB

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. We may consider late applications if we have places available, but you should contact the relevant Admissions Office for advice first.

You must submit two references with your application.

Before making your application, you must make contact with a potential supervisor to discuss your research proposal. Further information on making a research degree application can be found on the College website:

You will be formally interviewed (in person, by video-conferencing or Skype).

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • The Chancellor's Building, 49 Little France Crescent
  • Little France
  • Edinburgh
  • EH16 4SB