UCL Graduate degrees


Doctoral Training Programme for the Ecological Study of the Brain (Ecological Brain) PhD

The Leverhulme Doctoral Training Programme for the Ecological Study of the Brain (ECOLOGICAL BRAIN DTP) provides cutting-edge cross-disciplinary PhD training in the study of brain and behaviour in the real world.

Key information

Programme starts

September 2019

Modes and duration

Full time: 4 years

Application dates

Tuition fees (2019/20)

UK/EU: TBC in prospectus (FT)
Overseas: TBC in prospectus (FT)

Note on fees: The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website.

Location: London, Bloomsbury

English language requirements

If your education has not been conducted in the English language, you will be expected to demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of English proficiency.

The English language level for this programme is:

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

International students

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below.

Select your country:


Understanding how humans operate in the real-world, the ecological niche in which the brain has evolved, is critical to explaining the richness of human experiences. Most scientific knowledge about brain and behaviour, however, comes from laboratory studies focusing on a single domain and sacrifice real-world context to achieve experimental control. At the other end of the spectrum, scholars studying real-world phenomena often sacrifice experimental control in order to conduct studies in naturalistic settings. Laboratory experiments, however, often have limited external validity, while naturalistic approaches are descriptive, and therefore do not address causal relationships between brain, behaviour and the environment. 

ECOLOGICAL BRAIN moves from established patterns of working within single disciplines to an integrative science approach that brings together psychology, neuroscience, education, geography, computer science, engineering and architecture to bridge the gap between basic scientific discovery, and the application of this knowledge.

Research areas

Basic Behavioural Brain Sciences (sensory systems, cognitive science and neuroscience);

Applied Sciences (education, human-computer interaction, built environment);

Methodological Advances (computational modelling, data science, VR development)

More information can be found on the department website: Doctoral Training Programme for the Ecological Study of the Brain (Ecological Brain) PhD

Degree structure

During Year 1, students are required to undergo some personalised training. Training will include the following (tailored to reflect previous training and the needs of each student): 
Basic Scientific Training
(a) Statistics; 
(b) Matlab or Phyton programming;
(c) Neuroanatomy;
(d) Behavioural methods.

Bespoke Training
(a) Using mobile recording devices;
(b) Designing experiments and applications with VR;
(c) App development and testing for collecting data from participants in the field.

Research Ethics and Integrity; writing and communication training.

In addition to this students are required to complete 20 points worth of Transferable Skills training.

Students select a primary and one or more subsidiary supervisors by the Summer of Year 1 and write a short project proposal.


Years 2-4

Students undertake their MPhil/PhD, for which they will be based in the home department of their primary supervisor.


During Year 1, students are required to undertake three rotation projects under supervisors from different fields.


There are 5 fully funded scholarships available that cover UK/EU fees and provide a living stipend.

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.



Ecological Brain students will learn new methods relating to remote tracking, sensing, building immersive environments etc. and crucially, how these relate to behavioural and neural responses.

They will acquire excellent communication and transferable skills by working in interdisciplinary environments, including interacting with industry partners.

They will be supported in taking any advanced training and visit labs in the UK and overseas.

Why study this degree at UCL?

The ECOLOGICAL BRAIN DTP brings together supervisors from several disciplines including psychology, neuroscience, architecture, computer science, engineering, education and geography sharing the vision that to explain the richness of human experiences it is critical to understand how humans operate in the real-world. The DTP aims to equip the next generation of brain scientists in harnessing and further developing new methods and technologies - part of the digital revolution - to measure behaviour and brain activity in the wild, to bring real-world complexity into the lab and to analyse the wealth of data these methods produce.

Thus, the Ecological Brain DTP gives you:

* A truly interdisciplinary environment where architects, data scientists, engineers, psychologists and neuroscientists work together.

* State-of-the-art training in new methods for recording brain and behavioural responses in the real-world and to simulate the real-world in the lab.

* Career pathways in academia as well as in industry.

Department: Division of Psychology & Language Sciences

Application and next steps


Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places. Those applying for scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants) should take note of application deadlines.

Application deadlines

For more information see our Applications page.

Apply now

Contact information