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MSCA-COFUND-CLEAR-Doc-PhD Position#CD22-49: Effect of an intensive exercise-based training program on neuroplasticity and mobility in individuals with Parkinson's Disease


Job Information

Université Gustave Eiffel
Research Field
Psychological sciences
Medical sciences
Researcher Profile
First Stage Researcher (R1)
Application Deadline
Type of Contract
Job Status
Hours Per Week
Is the job funded through the EU Research Framework Programme?
H2020 / Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions COFUND
Marie Curie Grant Agreement Number
Is the Job related to staff position within a Research Infrastructure?

Offer Description

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease that negatively impacts mobility. Gait problems start in the early stages of the disease and, unfortunately, they may lead to falls with negative consequences on mobility, quality of life, and autonomy. The risk of falls increases, particularly in complex environments, where the individual has to manage obstacles or when he/she is in dual-task situations (talking while walking). These situations may appear when walking in urban environments. Studying walking in situations frequently encountered in urban environments is therefore important to allow individuals to maintain their mobility. To compensate for the loss of automaticity, PD patients rely more on executive functions and attentional resources. Executive functions are closely related to the functions of the prefrontal cortex. In fact, patients with PD showed increased dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) activity compared to healthy older adults, even during usual walking (Ranchet et al., 2020). Multidisciplinary interventions may show beneficial effects on walking as different aspects of gait (e.g. coordination, balance, speed movement, etc.) are being targeted (Mirelman et al, 2019). An intensive multidisciplinary exercise-based rehabilitation training program, called Sirocco, has been developed for patients with PD in France with the objective to improve or maintain functional abilities (Roche et al., 2017). This program is a collective intensive exercise-based rehabilitation-training program, unique in France. Each session is composed by a group of eight patients who stayed at the hospital for five weeks. The program gathers several activities such as adapted physical activity, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Adapted physical activity includes nordic walking, cross training, balneotherapy, collective sport and stretching. All activities are divided into 45- minutes session, with 5 sessions per day, five days a week.

There is evidence that exercise has not only beneficial effects on motor and functional capabilities but also on neuroplasticity, even in patients with PD (Petzinger et al., 2013, Johansson et al., 2020;2022). The neuroplasticity refers to the many ways in which the nervous system can change in response to rehabilitation. Preliminary results showed that the “Sirocco” program may improve physical abilities and walking performance in patients with PD (Roche et al., 2017). Our pilot study with 14 PD patients showed that after the training program, patients had a significant reduction of DLPFC activity during usual walking (Hoang et al., 2022). This suggests that patients may have a greater reserve capacity to face more challenging walking conditions. One of the limitations of these previous studies is that cortical activity was measured only from the prefrontal cortex. Cortical activity changes in other brain regions and functional connectivity (communication between different brain regions) should be assessed to better understand the involvement of other brain regions in walking under complex environments and neuroplasticity in PD, respectively.

The main objective is therefore to investigate the effects of the Sirocco program on cerebral activity just after the program and six months after, in different cortical regions in patients with PD. A secondary aim is to investigate the effect of Sirocco program on mobility and quality of life. Sixty patients will be recruited, divided in 2 groups: one performing the Sirocco program versus one group performing a conventional rehabilitation (2 sessions per week of physiotherapy). Before and after the intervention, all participants will perform walking tasks ranging from usual to complex walking (ex.: dual-task walking such as walking among obstacles and walking while performing a cognitive task). Cortical activity changes in multiple regions (prefrontal, parietal, and occipital) while walking will be assessed using the functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). A better functional connectivity between regions will suggest an improvement of brain functioning. Gait performance will also be recorded. Potential changes in terms of mobility (modes of transport used, number of falls), quality of life and autonomy will be assessed by (1) questionnaires before, and six months after the intervention and (2) by two focus groups, occurring between the second and the third assessment. One focus group will be performed with the patients and the other focus group will be performed with the caregivers.

At short and long-term, we expect more pronounced changes in cortical activity in the brain regions after the program than the conventional rehabilitation, with a reduction of cortical activity, particularly in prefrontal region and a better functional connectivity between prefrontal and parietal regions. Furthermore, we expect that after the program, patients declared better mobility and quality of life than those who made the conventional reeducation.

These findings would give new insight on the efficacity of an intensive rehabilitation program on cortical changes while walking, mobility, and quality of life in patients with PD.

The proposed research is based on the previous findings of our studies in younger adults, older adults, and patients with PD (Roche et al., 2018, Hoang et al., 2022a, 2022b,2020; Ranchet et al., 2020, (2022, in revision)).


This project is in collaboration with local hospitals (Teodor Danaila, Hôpital Neurologique and Maxime Cheminon and Jacques Luauté, Hôpital Henry Gabrielle) and external partner (Devos Hannes, Director of the Mobility Consortium at the University of Kansas Medical Center, KS, USA).

The PhD student will work in the Laboratory of Ergonomics Cognitive Sciences applied to Transports, at the University Gustave Eiffel, Bron (next to Lyon).


Research Field
Psychological sciences
Education Level
Bachelor Degree or equivalent
  • At the time of the deadline, applicants must be in possession or finalizing their Master’s degree or equivalent/postgraduate degree.
  • At the time of recruitment, applicants must be in possession of their Master’s degree or equivalent/postgraduate degree which would formally entitle to embark on a doctorate.
Specific Requirements

We are looking for a highly motivated student with master’s degree in neurosciences, psychology, rehabilitation, medical sciences or related fields. An experience in neurophysiological tools, such as the near infrared spectroscopy will be appreciated.

Excellent communication skills and ability to work in a team as well as good oral and written skills in English language will be appreciated. Oral and written skills in French language is a prerequisite.

Due to the continued long-standing collaboration between University of Gustave Eiffel and University of Kansas Medical Center, the student will participate in a research stay abroad for three months at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) with Dr. Devos, where the student can discover other cortical measures during gait activity (ex. Electro-encephalography and pupillometery) and learn new skills. The KUMC has a great expertise in dual tasking, and community ambulation measures.


Additional Information

  • High-quality doctoral training rewarded by a PhD degree, delivered by Université Gustave Eiffel
  • Access to cutting-edge infrastructures for research & innovation.
  • Appointment for a period of 36 months based on a salary of 2 700 € (gross salary per month).
  • Job contract under the French labour legislation in force, respecting health and safety, and social security: 35 hours per week contract, 25 days of annual leave per year.
  • International mobility will be mandatory
  • An international environment supported by the adherence to the European Charter & Code.
  • Access to dedicated CLEAR-Doc trainings with a strong interdisciplinary focus, together with a Career development Plan.
Eligibility criteria

Applicants must fulfil the following eligibility criteria:

  • At the time of the deadline, applicants must be in possession or finalizing their Master’s degree or equivalent/postgraduate degree.
  • At the time of recruitment, applicants must be in possession of their Master’s degree or equivalent/postgraduate degree which would formally entitle to embark on a doctorate.
  • At the time of the deadline, applicants must be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research career (career breaks excluded) and not yet been awarded a doctoral degree. Career breaks refer to periods of time where the candidate was not active in research, regardless of his/her employment status (sick leave, maternity leave etc). Short stays such as holidays and/or compulsory national service are not taken into account.
  • At the time of the deadline, applicants must fulfil the transnational mobility rule: incoming applicants must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in France for more than 12 months in the 3 previous years.
  • One application per call per year is allowed.
  • Applicants must be available full-time to start the programme on schedule (November 1st 2023).
  • Application rules are enforced by the French doctoral system which specifies a standard duration of 3 years for a full-time PhD together with the MSCA standards and the OTM-R European rules as follows.
  • Citizens of any nationality may apply to the programme.
  • There is no age limit.
Selection process

Please refer to the Guide for Applicants available on the CLEAR-Doc website:

Additional comments
  • The First step before applying is contacting the PhD supervisor. You will not be able to apply without an acceptation letter from the PhD supervisor.
  • International mobility planned:

The student will participate in a research stay abroad for three months at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC)

Please contact the PhD supervisor for any additional detail on job offer.

There are no restrictions concerning the age, gender or nationality of the candidates. Applicants with career breaks or variations in the chronological sequence of their career, with mobility experience or with interdisciplinary background or private sector experience are welcome to apply.

Support service is available during every step of the application process by email:

Website for additional job details

Work Location(s)

Number of offers available
Université Gustave Eiffel
Postal Code
25 Av. François Mitterrand


5, Boulevard Descartes
Postal Code