|Funding for:||UK Students, EU Students, International Students|
|Funding amount:||The successful applicant (UK/EU) will be supported to apply for the BBSRC funded- MIBTP PhD programme (4 years of funding) in Jan 2024, for a start in September 2024 at the University of Birmingham. International students will also be considered.|
|Placed On:||12th September 2023|
|Closes:||30th October 2023|
The impact of diet on mental health and brain performance is a topic of growing focus and concern: diets rich in saturated fats have been associated with a significant risk for cognitive decline later in life, whilst healthier diets, rich in plant polyphenols are linked to reduced risk of dementia. Additionally, the increasing prevalence of stress in our societies is also contributing to poorer brain function. During stressful periods, individuals often shift their food choices, towards high-fat/sugar foods and away from healthier options. Importantly, unhealthy/healthy food choices when temporally associated with stressful events might either exacerbate or protect cerebral function.
We have recently shown that a high-fat-meal just before an acute episode of mental stress reduces pre-frontal cortical oxygenation in comparison to a low-fat control in healthy young adults. Such reduction in cerebral oxygenation is very likely to impact cognitive function. Yet, it is currently unknown for how long such deficits persist and what is the impact on cognitive performance. Furthermore, understanding the underlying mechanisms by which fat impacts brain function during stress will be crucial to inform future dietary guidelines; as well as potentiate the research on behaviour change around food choices during stressful periods. Interestingly, preliminary data from our group also suggests that individuals that consume unhealthier diets (particularly higher levels of saturated fat) have reduced cortical oxygenation when subjected to mental stress, suggesting that aspects of habitual diet might be important to determine the resilience of the brain to deal with mental stress.
This project aims to:
1) Investigate which habitual dietary factors (e.g. saturated fat, polyphenols, fiber) modify the susceptibility of the brain’s response to acute mental stress
2) Establish the impact of a high-fat meal prior to mental stress on cognitive function/performance on a high susceptible versus a low susceptible group (e.g. high vs low habitual intake of saturated fat)
3) Explore the underpinning mechanisms by which fat intake affects brain physiology during mental stress by specifically evaluating changes in brain metabolism (mitochondrial respiration), peripheral inflammation and gut microbiome.
This project will have important implications for understanding the consequences of acute stress for brain heath and cognitive performance in young adults and highlights the importance of food choices during periods of stress.
Applicants should have a strong background in Physiology, Nutrition and/or Psychology. Working experience in a research setting, particularly running human randomized controlled trials would be desirable. They should have a commitment and strong interest in interdisciplinary research, be motivated and be prepared to work independently. Applicants should have:
1) A-levels Maths or equivalent maths and/or stats classes during their UG degree and/or their Masters;
2) First-Class Degree in a relevant subject;
3) An MSc in a relevant subject area would be preferable. How to apply Informal enquiries are advised and should be directed to Dr Catarina Rendeiro (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To apply, please email a detailed CV, names and addresses of two referees, and a covering letter stating why this project is of interest to you and highlighting how your research experience/capabilities would be applicable in this project.
Type / Role: