Postgraduate study

Clinical Brain Sciences PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Clinical Brain Sciences

I have learned how to work with very large datasets and developed my understanding of statistics. I’ve also had the chance to develop my presentation skills, and learned to work in a team with people from different scientific backgrounds (e.g. healthcare, statistics, databases, project management).

Tim Wilkinson PhD Clinical Brain Sciences 2015-2019
Tim Wilkinson               PhD Clinical Brain Sciences 2015-2019

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 66 Principal Investigators - including 25 Chairs - of whom 70% are active NHS clinicians. The Centre’s 400+ members conduct research of international recognition and reputation: they attracted c.£58M 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, Sandercock & Wardlaw; Drs Doubal, Sena & Whiteley)
  • Neuroimaging (Professors Wardlaw, Farrall, Marshall & Waldman; Drs Bastin, Job, MacGillivray, Mair, Pernet, Thompson, Thrippleton & Valdes-Hernandez)
  • Psychiatry, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression (Professors Lawrie, McIntosh, Owens & Thomson; Drs Johnstone,MacIntyre & Whalley), autism and learning disability (Drs McKechanie, Stanfield & Fletcher-Watson)
  • Prion diseases (Professors Knight, Manson & Will; Drs Green & Molesworth)
  • Neurodegenerative diseases: multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, dementias (Professors Chandran, Piller, Ritchie & Smith; Drs Connick, de Sousa, Dhillon, Duncan, Hunt, Mahad, Muniz-Terrera & Pal)
  • Synaptic Biology & Disease (Professor S Grant; Drs Komiyama, Sylantyev & Wang)
  • Epilepsy (Dr Chin)
  • Neonatal development & the effect of premature birth (Professor Boardman)
  • Neuro-oncology / Translational Neurosurgery (Drs R Grant, Brennan & Hughes)
  • Functional Disorders (Hon Professors Stone & Carson)
  • Sleep medicine (Dr Riha)

The Centre also has a strong record of attracting philanthropic donations to establish specialist centres of excellence (Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic, Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research, Centre for Dementia Prevention, Muir Maxwell Epilepsy Centre, SMC Research Centre, Sackler Institute for Psychobiological Research) that are maintained and expanded by community fundraising. Two of our Professors (Chandran and Wardlaw) are Chairs of the UK Dementia Research Institute at the University of Edinburgh.

CCBS has approximately 80 postgraduate students, mostly PhDs. It is particularly strong in clinical PhD training, with a number of innovative schemes including Psy-STAR, Rowling Scholars and Princess Margaret Research Development Fellowships. The Edinburgh Imaging Academy is a flagship for e-learning MSc and CPD courses.

For more information, see our website:

Note that our Psychiatry MScR and PhD programmes have their own page:

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

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 (at least 6.0 in each module)

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 92 (at least 20 in each module)

  • PTE Academic: 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

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDClinical Brain Sciences3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDClinical Brain Sciences6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments. The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on your programme, the duration of your studies, and your residency status. (Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.)

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • 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.

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