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  Combatting brain and body ageing through exercise

   School of Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience

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  Prof H Piggins  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

As we grow older, our physiology and behaviour deteriorate. This is compounded by a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, and low quality sleep. This 'unhealthy ageing' is associated with increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular and metabolic disease, impaired brain function, and poorly coordinated body clock rhythms. Indeed, aged mice maintained in a sedentary state become obese and have impairments in their daily metabolic and cardiovascular profile as well as their body clock and the rhythms it regulates. Inflammation of the brain, including the hypothalamus and brainstem (the brain's main circadian and homeostatic regulatory centres) and the hippocampus (a major site for learning and memory) occurs in obesity and unhealthy ageing. In this proposal, the student will evaluate the utility of voluntary exercise in a running-wheel in countering effects of unhealthy ageing.

Through evaluating circadian rhythms, metabolic, cardiovascular, and inflammatory markers, performance on cognitive tasks as well as molecular and neuronal activity in the hypothalamus and brainstem, the student will determine how providing running wheels at different points in the lifespan can counter unhealthy ageing associated with a sedentary lifestyle. The student will establish whether this voluntary exercise stimulates the production of new brain cells in the hypothalamus and hippocampus and will test the effectiveness of exercise to promote healthy ageing in animals with genetically weakened body clocks. This project will be the first to simultaneously assess the effectiveness of voluntary physical exercise on hypothalamic and brainstem molecular and neuronal activity, brain cellular plasticity, cognition, and metabolic activity as well as body composition profile in unhealthy ageing.

The overall hypothesis to be tested in this project is that voluntary physical exercise combats the effects of unhealthy ageing by strengthening circadian rhythms in the hypothalamus and brainstem, reducing visceral fat mass and neural inflammation, to improve brain and body activity and function.

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

This project is available to international students who wish to self-fund their PhD or who have access to their own funding. Please contact Dr Piggins directly for information about the project and how to apply ([Email Address Removed]).

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