Job ID: 119289

MSc by Research: Developmental impact of sugar on brain reward circuits

Position: MSc by Research

Deadline: 30 June 2024

Contract Length: 1 year

City: Aberdeen

Country: United Kingdom

Institution: University of Aberdeen

Department: The Rowett Institute


The MSc by Research programme at the University of Aberdeen is for students interested in a research-intensive master’s degree. It is designed specifically to enhance your skills for a PhD or research career.

The prevalence of obesity is rapidly growing in children and teenagers, who end up developing CVD and T2D early in life. One of the main causes of this is the overconsumption of highly palatable foods enriched in sugar and/or fat. Despite numerous studies examining the metabolic consequences of sugar overconsumption, the long-term impact on brain and cognition remains understudied. Our previous and current work has shown that adolescence appears to be a crucial vulnerability window for the deleterious impact of an unbalanced diet.

Palatable foods like sugar target specific parts of the brain, especially a group of regions commonly called the “brain reward system” which regulate complex motivated behaviours like food-seeking or decision-making. This circuit is still under development during adolescence, making it vulnerable to dietary behaviours.

The aim of this project is to investigate the impact of such diets on the brain reward system. To achieve this, we will use molecular biology techniques (qPCR, Western Blot, immunohistochemistry) to measure the expression of different neuronal markers in several brain regions. We especially plan to focus our attention on specific neurotransmitter systems involved in food-seeking processes such as dopamine, endocannabinoids and opioids.

This project offers an excellent training opportunity for a talented and highly motivated MRes candidate. They will receive hands-on training in several fundamental wet-lab techniques but also in system neuroscience and neuroanatomy. They will also be encouraged to interact with other members of the two labs gaining insight in in vivo techniques (e.g. behavioural neuroscience) and metabolic disorders. This experience will make them perfectly suited for the preparation of PhD applications.

This project would suit a candidate with an undergraduate degree in a biomedical science-related subject (e.g. neuroscience, molecular biology, biomedical sciences…). Previous experience in molecular biology techniques or animal behaviour could be a plus.


Applicants to this project should hold a minimum of a 2:1 UK Honours degree (or international equivalent) in a relevant subject.

We encourage applications from all backgrounds and communities, and are committed to having a diverse, inclusive team.

Informal enquiries are encouraged, please contact Dr Fabien Naneix () for further information.

More information on the application procedure here:

Funding Notes

This is a self-funding project open to students worldwide. Our typical start dates for this programme are February or October.

Fees for this programme are £4,712 for home/UK students, and £24,860 for international students.

Additional research costs / Bench fees of £5,000 will also apply.

The Scottish Government offers postgraduate loans to those due to start a Masters (taught or research) programme.