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Diet, obesity and the brains control of the gastrointestinal system

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  • Full or part time
    Dr D I Lewis
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Obesity has become a global pandemic affecting billions of individuals worldwide. The brain is the key to the development of new treatments for this often life-threatening disorder. If we can increase our understanding of how the brain controls the gastrointestinal system and what happens when these control systems malfunction or fail, then we may be able to develop new treatments for obesity or even ways to stop it occurring; either of which would result in substantial health, social and financial benefits for mankind.

We are interested in how the motoneurones within the hindbrain which control the gastrointestinal systems are regulated; both by higher brain regions and by metabolic signals. We are also interested in what happens when things go wrong. What we eat has a major influence in determining whether or not we become obese. However, diet can have a much earlier effect; studies in both humans and animals have shown that what your mother ate whilst pregnant or during breast-feeding can also increase the risk of you becoming obese in later life. Therefore, we are also investigating the influence of maternal diet during pregnancy and weaning on the development of these hindbrain circuits in the offspring.

To address these questions we use a multidisciplinary approach, predominantly using whole animal (in-vivo) experimental techniques and preparations. We combine these with neuroanatomical, electrophysiological and molecular biological techniques as appropriate.

Potential projects include:

Hypothalamic modulation of hindbrain gastrointestinal circuits
Does food composition modulate gastrointestinal reflexes and motor outflows?
Does maternal diet alter the development of hindbrain gastrointestinal circuits?

Other similar projects may also be availiable, please contact me. Futher information see: http://www.fbs.leeds.ac.uk/staff/profile.php?tag=Lewis

Funding Notes

Self funded students are welcome to apply at any time. A limited number of funded studentships are available, see http://www.fbs.leeds.ac.uk/gradschool/index.htm for details and deadlines.


Poole SL, Lewis DI, Deuchars SA. (2008) Histamine depolarizes neurons in the dorsal vagal complex. Neurosci Lett. 432(1):19-24.

Lewis DI, Coote JH. (2008). Electrophysiological characteristics of vasomotor preganglionic neurons and related neurons in the thoracic spinal cord of the rat: an intracellular study in vivo. Neuroscience. 152(2):534-46.

Dallas ML, Morris NP, Lewis DI, Deuchars SA, Deuchars J. (2008) Voltage-gated potassium currents within the dorsal vagal nucleus: inhibition by BDS toxin. Brain Res. 1189:51-7.

Poole SL, Deuchars J, Lewis DI, Deuchars SA. (2007) Subdivision-specific responses of neurons in the nucleus of the tractus solitarius to activation of mu-opioid receptors in the rat. J Neurophysiol. 98(5):3060-71.

Dallas ML, Atkinson L, Milligan CJ, Morris NP, Lewis DI, Deuchars SA, Deuchars J. (2005) Localization and function of the Kv3.1b subunit in the rat medulla oblongata: focus on the nucleus tractus solitarii. J Physiol. 562(Pt 3):655-72.

Bouryi VA, Lewis DI. (2004) Enkephalinergic inhibition of raphe pallidus inputs to rat hypoglossal motoneurones in vitro. Neuroscience. 129(1):55-64.

Bouryi VA, Lewis DI. (2003) The modulation by 5-HT of glutamatergic inputs from the raphe pallidus to rat hypoglossal motoneurones, in vitro. J Physiol. 553(Pt 3):1019-31.

How good is research at University of Leeds in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 60.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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