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The role of the gut-brain axis in obesity

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  • Full or part time
    Dr C Metzler-Baddeley
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Obesity is globally on the rise and is threatening to become an epidemic in Western Societies. Obesity is also a risk factor for many health problems including psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. Recently, studies of gut-to-brain communication pathways have been advancing rapidly, implicating the gut microbiome in the development of obesity and its related diseases. This evidence is mainly based on animal models but is beginning to illuminate the relationship between gut dysbiosis and obesity in humans suggesting that obesity-related changes in the gut may influence food-control regulation mechanisms in the brain. This project will investigate the gut-brain axis in human obesity with advanced MRI neuroimaging techniques to investigate microstructural and physiological properties of the brain in relation to the gut microbiome with faecal analysis as well as experimental neuropsychological methods to investigate cognition and behaviour. The project will be jointly supervised by Dr Metzler-Baddeley, Senior Lecturer in Cognitive Neuroscience and lead of the Cardiff Aging and Dementia Risk Study (CARDS) based at the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC) and Prof Julian Marchesi from the Microbiome, Microbes and Informatics group at the School of Biosciences, Cardiff University. In collaboration with Professor Jon Barry at the Welsh Institute of Metabolic and Obesity Surgery in Swansea, the student will have the opportunity to study the gut-brain axis and cognition in obese individuals before and after bariatric surgery. In addition, the student will be able to test participants from the CARDs study (Metzler-Baddeley et al 2019) for longitudinal investigations into the role of the gut-brain axis in ageing and dementia risk.

Funding Notes

The studentship will commence in October 2019, and will cover your tuition fees (at UK/EU level) as well as a maintenance grant. In 2018-19 the maintenance grant for full-time students was £14,777 per annum. As well as tuition fees and a maintenance grant, all School of Psychology students receive conference and participant money (approx. £2250 for the duration of the studentship).They also receive a computer, office space and access to courses offered by the University’s Doctoral Academy and become members of the University Doctoral Academy


Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals, and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. To be eligible for the full award, EU Nationals must have been in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the course for which they are seeking funding, including for the purposes of full-time education.
As only one studentship is available and a very high standard of applications is typically received, the successful applicant is likely to have a very good first degree (a First or Upper Second class BSc Honours or equivalent) and/or be distinguished by having relevant research experience.

You can apply online - consideration is automatic on applying for a PhD in Psychology, with an October 2019 start date (programme code RFPDPSYA).

Please use our online application service at and specify in the funding section that you wish to be considered for School funding.

Please specify that you are applying for this particular project and the supervisor.

Metzler-Baddeley C, Mole J, Leonaviciute E, Sims R, et al. (2019) Sex-specific effects on central adiposity and inflammatory markers on limbic microstructure. NeuroImage epub ahead of print

Marchesi JR (2018) Advancing microbiome research. Immunology 154(4)

Niccolai, E, Boem F, Russo E & Amedei A (2019) The gut-brain axiss in the neuropsychological disease model of obesity: a classical movie revised by the emerging director “microbiome”. Nutrients, 11, 156

How good is research at Cardiff University in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 69.33

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