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Investigating the mechanisms underlying exercise as a treatment for anxiety

A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Academic background
Sciences, Health Sciences
Host campus
Honours, Master’s, PhD
School of Pharmacy
Dr Olivia Harrison, Professor Jim Cotter, Associate Professor Elaine Hargreaves


Successful applicants will be based with the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences. The proposed studies will utilise an exercise programme (or a stretching control condition) in individuals with moderate anxiety, to assess the effects on anxiety symptoms. A particular focus of this work is on the ability of exercise to influence perception of body symptoms (termed ‘interoception’) within the breathing domain.

The project is led by Dr Olivia Harrison (School of Pharmacy), Professor Jim Cotter and Associate Professor Elaine Hargreaves (both School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences) who will provide supervision for the successful applicant(s).

The successful applicant(s) will help design and run the exercise and stretching programmes and testing sessions associated with this project. Training will be given in the appropriate measurement and analysis techniques. The project is part of a wider study that will involve cooperation with additional postgraduate students in the Department of Neuroscience and School of Pharmacy.

Eligibility Criteria

Applicants should have a qualifying degree (e.g., a good Honours degree or a Post Graduate Diploma, or equivalent) in an exercise science, exercise prescription, exercise psychology or other relevant discipline, and the necessary skills and attitude to carry out independent research. Applicants must have proof of English language proficiency if their previous qualification was conducted in another language. The successful applicant will ideally be based in Dunedin for at least part of the full-time study required for the relevant qualification.

Application requirements

Applications (by email) must include the following:

  • A curriculum vitae (2 pages maximum)
  • A brief outline (1 page maximum) describing your relevant research and/or professional skills and experience – this can be from your previous study or employment
  • A summary (1 page only) of your motivations and goals for undertaking the proposed course of study
  • Academic transcripts and certificates for any previous tertiary study
  • The contact details of two referees (at least one of these should be an academic referee; a reference from an employer may be included)

Funding notes

PhD applicants will need to fulfil the eligibility requirements for admission to the PhD programme at the University of Otago. Prospective students should also apply for a University of Otago doctoral scholarship (see Assistance will be provided for the PhD and scholarship application processes. The University of Otago PhD scholarship provides tuition fees and a tax-free personal allowance of NZD$27,000 per annum for three years; see Alternative funding is available (if necessary) for an enthusiastic student who is not successful at obtaining a University of Otago PhD scholarship – please enquire for details.


Dr Olivia Harrison
Tel   +64 3 479 4518