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  Effect of dietary vitamin B supplementation on brain synaptic activity

   Department of Biomedical Engineering

  ,  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Numerous studies have demonstrated the importance of B vitamins (e.g., B6, B12 and folate) for optimal physiological and neurological functioning. Deficiency in one or more vitamins in this family can lead to haematological and neurological diseases such as megaloblastic anaemia, depression and dementia including Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia in older adults. However, evidence for the benefit of dietary supplement of these B vitamins on mood, cognition and brain function is less clear.  

One way of assessing the neurological benefit of vitamin supplementation on cognitive functioning is to utilise modern neuroimaging techniques. We recently demonstrated that brain neural signals can be interpreted in terms of the excitatory and inhibitory post-synaptic activities (Bruyns-Haylett et al 2016). This development makes it possible for the neurological consequences of vitamin B supplementation to be studied and interpreted in terms of changes in the dynamics of synaptic activity, with implications for altered cognitive behaviour.  

The objective of this project is to investigate the effect of dietary supplementation of B vitamins on brain neural activity and the subsequent impact on behaviour. Using a rodent model, vitamins B6/B12/folate or their combinations will be administered through diet. In vivo electrophysiological experiments will be performed. Results from these experiments will address whether vitamin B supplementation can alter sensory evoked and spontaneous synaptic activity, and whether it differentially enhances neural activity in different age groups. During the programme, the student will be trained to conduct in vivo electrophysiological experiments, and analyse data using signal processing, statistical and mathematical modelling techniques. 

School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading: 

The University of Reading, located west of London, England, provides world-class research education programs. The University’s main Whiteknights Campus is set in 130 hectares of beautiful parkland, a 30-minute train ride to central London and 40 minutes from London Heathrow airport.    

Our School of Biological Sciences conducts high-impact research, tackling current global challenges faced by society and the planet.  Our research ranges from understanding and improving human health and combating disease, through to understanding evolutionary processes and uncovering new ways to protect the natural world.  In 2020, we moved into a stunning new ~£60 million Health & Life Sciences building. This state-of-the-art facility is purpose-built for science research and teaching.  It houses the Cole Museum of Zoology, a café and social spaces.  

In the School of Biological Sciences, you will be joining a vibrant community of ~180 PhD students representing ~40 nationalities. Our students publish in high-impact journals, present at international conferences, and organise a range of exciting outreach and public engagement activities. 

During your PhD at the University of Reading, you will expand your research knowledge and skills, receiving supervision in one-to-one and small group sessions. You will have access to cutting-edge technology and learn the latest research techniques.  We also provide dedicated training in important transferable skills that will support your career aspirations. If English is not your first language, the University's excellent International Study and Language Institute will help you develop your academic English skills. 

The University of Reading is a welcoming community for people of all faiths and cultures.  We are committed to a healthy work-life balance and will work to ensure that you are supported personally and academically. 


Applicants should have a good degree (minimum of a UK Upper Second (2:1) undergraduate degree or equivalent) in Science, Bio-Engineering, Medicine or a strongly-related discipline.  Applicants will also need to meet the University’s English Language requirements. We offer pre-sessional courses that can help with meeting these requirements. 

How to apply: 

Submit an application for a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at

Further information: 


Professor Ying Zheng, email  

Biological Sciences (4) Engineering (12) Food Sciences (15) Mathematics (25) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

We welcome applications from self-funded students worldwide for this project.
If you are applying to an international funding scheme, we encourage you to get in contact as we may be able to support you in your application.


Bruyns-Haylett, M., Luo, J., Bruyns-Haylett, A. J. , Harris, S., Boorman, L., Milne, E., Vautrelle, N., Hayashi, Y., Whalley, B. J., Jones, M., Berwick, J., Riera, J. and Zheng, Y. (2016) The neurogenesis of P1 and N1: a concurrent EEG/LFP study. NeuroImage. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.09.034
Kang, S., Hayashi, Y., Bruyns-Haylett, M., Baker, D. K., Boura, M., Wang, H., Karatzas, K.-A., Serra, I., Bithell, A., Williams, C., Field, D. and Zheng, Y. (2019) Supplemental vitamin B-12 enhances the neural response to sensory stimulation in the barrel cortex of healthy rats but does not affect spontaneous neural activity. Journal of Nutrition, 149 (5). pp. 730-737. ISSN 1541-6100 doi:

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