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Elphinstone Scholarship - How does adolescent obesity change the control of dietary decision-making?

   School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition

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  Dr Fabien Naneix, Dr Antonio Gonzalez Sanchez  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Obesity is a major health challenge for the 21st century and is associated with several metabolic (e.g. cardiovascular disorders, diabetes…) and psychiatric comorbidities (e.g. depression). The main driver of obesity is unhealthy dietary habits with the overconsumption of food enriched in fat and sugar. Food-related stimuli like sights/smells of food or food adverts can bias food choice and trigger craving and eating. This mechanism may be exacerbated in obesity, making it harder to maintain a healthy diet.

Recently, the prevalence of obesity has risen amongst teens, which is really concerning as adolescence is a crucial period for brain development. The prefrontal cortex, which plays a central role in the regulation of the response to food stimuli, is one of the last brain regions to develop. It is imperative to understand how these brain circuits may be more vulnerable to unhealthy food during development to tackle juvenile obesity.

Using advanced genetic tools, we will measure ex vivo and in vivo how obesity in adolescents changes the response of prefrontal cortex to food-related stimuli. We will also selectively manipulate the activity of these brain circuits to determine the causal link between changes in prefrontal cortex response and changes in feeding induced by food stimuli in obese animals. The project aims to highlight the vulnerability of the adolescent brain to unhealthy dietary habits, but also to lead to the development of novel behavioural and interventional strategies targeting the deleterious impact of adolescent obesity on the brain and on cognitive functions.

The project will offer an excellent opportunity to be trained in state-of-the-art modern neuroscience techniques. The student will also gain fundamental concept in behavioural neuroscience and experimental psychology. The ideal candidate should have a good knowledge in neuroscience and an interest in cognition and behaviour. Prior experience in programming (e.g. Python) and/or using laboratory animals (rodents) would be an advantage. A strong willingness to contribute to the team life is essential.

Informal enquiries are encouraged, please contact the lead supervisor, Dr Fabien Naneix ([Email Address Removed]) for further information.

 Essential background of student:

Applicants should hold a 1st Class UK Honours degree (or international equivalent) in a relevant subject. Those with a 2:1 UK Honours degree (or international equivalent) may be considered, provided they have (or are expected to achieve) a Distinction or Commendation at Master’s level.


This project will be based within the Rowett Institute, part of the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, at the University of Aberdeen. The Rowett Institute is located on the Foresterhill Health Campus, one of the largest clinical complexes in Europe, which also includes the Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS)the Institute of Applied Health Sciences, and a large teaching hospital.



Please note: The funding for this project covers tuition fees and research costs only, no stipend or living costs are provided.

  • Formal applications can be completed online: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/pgap/login.php
  • You should apply for Medical Sciences (PhD) to ensure your application is passed to the correct team.
  • Please clearly note the name of the lead supervisor and project title on the application form. If you do not mention the project title and the supervisor on your application it will not be considered for the studentship.
  • Please include a personal statement, an up-to-date copy of your academic CV, and relevant educational certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate and postgraduate (if applicable)).
  • Please note: you DO NOT need to provide a research proposal with this application
  • CV's submitted directly through a FindAPhD enquiry WILL NOT be considered.
  • General application enquiries can be made to [Email Address Removed] 

Funding Notes

This 36 Month project is funded by a prestigious University of Aberdeen Elphinstone Scholarship. This opportunity is open to UK and International students and includes funding to cover tuition fees and research costs only. No stipend or living costs are provided.
Funding for international students does not cover visa costs (either for yourself or for accompanying family members), immigration health surcharge or any other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.
The expected start date is February 2023.
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