PhD Studentship The Link Between Synaesthesia, Autism and Savant Syndrome


The link between synaesthesia, autism and savant syndrome

Applications are invited from well-qualified candidates for a 3-year PhD studentship funded by The Economic and Social Research Council to explore the link between synaesthesia, autism and savant syndrome.

Savant syndrome is a rare condition in which people with neuropsychological deficits (e.g., autism) exhibit exceptional abilities in one domain. These “islands of genius” have been found in musical ability, drawing, mathematics, calendar calculating and the ability to recall vast amounts from memory (e.g., autobiographical details). This studentship will test whether savant skills are mediated by a second neurological condition, synaesthesia, which gives rise to a kind of ‘merging of the senses’ (e.g., synaesthetes listening to music might experience sensations of colour, or unusual tastes in the mouth).

The project involves collaboration between researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh, and Sussex, and the successful candidate will be based in Edinburgh. He or she will join a collaborative community of students and researchers within the department of Psychology and across the University of Edinburgh, and will work under the direct supervision of Dr Julia Simner (Psychology, Edinburgh) in collaboration with Prof Jamie Ward (Psychology, Sussex).

The project will start by January 2014 however an earlier start date may be negotiated by successful candidates if appropriate.


  • Applicants will have a good honours degree in Psychology or Neuroscience.
  • A relevant MSc or equivalent training would be considered a significant advantage, as would a background in autism research or memory/perception or synaesthesia.
  • Applicants must comply with the University of Edinburgh requirements for postgraduate study.
  • The successful applicant will need to travel overseas to test study participants in North America (and potentially elsewhere) on an extended field trip and so would ideally be self-motivated under such circumstances.
  • Applicants must be UK or EU citizens. Unfortunately due to funding restrictions we are unable to accept applications from International students.


The studentship will cover (a) tuition fees at the Home/EU level, (b) travel expenses for the field trip(s), plus (c) an annual stipend of £13,590, per year for the duration.

A successful UK applicant would receive all three funds (a)-(c).

A successful (non-UK) EU applicant would receive funds (a)-(b) only. 

Non-EU applicants are not eligible for funding.

Application Procedure

Information on the application procedure can be found online by clicking on the Apply button below.

Deadline for Applications: Tuesday 15th October 2013. Interviews will be held in late October 2013.

Further information and queries

Questions regarding regulations and admissions requirements should be addressed to the PPLS Postgraduate Administrator:

Informal enquiries regarding the study are welcomed by Julia Simner:

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