The effects of high fat diet on adult neurogenesis in the brainstem

   Faculty of Biological Sciences

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  Dr S Deuchars, Dr B.M. Filippi  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Postnatal neurogenesis is known to occur in specific niches of the brain, such as the hippocampus and subventricular zone, which enables production of new interneurones to be integrated into neuronal circuits. There is also evidence for neurogenesis in other brain areas, such as the spinal cord (1) and brainstem, which is critical for metabolic homeostatic control. This region contains the dorsal vagal complex (DVC), which senses insulin levels and subsequently stimulates changes in feeding behaviour and glucose metabolism, through activation of neuronal circuits. In high fat diet, insulin resistance occurs in the DVC, through increased mitochondrial fission (2) and this leads to changes in the responsiveness of this region however, little is known about whether high fat diet changes the levels of neurogenesis in this region or indeed whether inflammatory responses involve production of immune cells in the region.
This project will study how high fat diet may affect neurogenesis in this and other regions and the mechanisms that underlie changes. It will also examine whether high fat diet induced changes may be modulated by activation of specific neurotransmitter systems and the mechanisms underlying these changes. We will use disease models of obesity, such as high fat diet fed animals and determine the fate of the newly proliferated cells using dual immunofluorescence.
To assess metabolic and neuronal changes in high fat diet-fed animal, this study will apply a variety of techniques including, metabolic and behavioural testing, specific viral delivery of mutated molecules, and electrophysiology. The student will also learn stereotactic surgery to inject adenoviruses or lentiviruses to knockdown or overexpress insulin receptors or to restore insulin sensitivity through cannulae.
Students should be highly motivated and have a relevant degree in neuroscience or a related biomedical subject.

Funding Notes

The Faculty of Biological Sciences is pleased to announce a number of fully-funded PhD studentships to start in Oct 2019, covering academic fees at UK/EU level and providing a stipend at research council rate (£15,009 for 2019-20) for 4 years. Candidates should have, or be expecting, a 2.1 or above at undergraduate level in a relevant subject. A range of projects, spanning the research areas of the faculty, are eligible for funding. Please apply online, clearly stating which project/supervisor you are interested in and including a CV and transcripts.


1. Corns LF, Atkinson L, Daniel J, Edwards IJ, New L, Deuchars J, Deuchars SA (2015) Cholinergic Enhancement of Cell Proliferation in the Postnatal Neurogenic Niche of the Mammalian Spinal Cord. Stem Cells. 33(9):2864-76
2. Filippi BM, Abraham MA, Silva PN Rasti M, LaPierre MP, Bauer PV, Rocheleau JV, Lam TKT (2017), Dynamin-Related Protein 1-Dependent Mitochondrial Fission Changes in the Dorsal Vagal Complex Regulate Insulin Action. Cell Reports, 18, 2301-2309

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