Jed is a 3rd year PhD student at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London as part of the CDT in Medical Imaging. He studied Biomedical Sciences at King’s for his undergraduate degree and an MRes in Clinical Drug Development at UCL. His project, supported by Unilever, studies how to image the effects of intra-nasal insulin on blood-flow and connectivity in the brain, and how these effects change in patients with insulin resistance.
I’m a neuro-pharmacologist by trade and my previous studies have largely focused on the novel drug pathways that can be manipulated to treat neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases. My current project looks at obesity and diabetes, two metabolic disorders that are currently the focus of a lot of public and scientific interest. Both conditions are new areas of research to me, and this has been one of the most exciting aspects of this PhD. My work focuses on insulin, understanding its effects on appetite and on the reward perceived when eating palatable foods.
Insulin is interesting because it is key to the regulation of blood glucose levels, but can also cross the blood-brain barrier where it acts more like a neurotransmitter, and is pivotal to a number of the brains processes. This route from the body to the brain is compromised in disorders such as diabetes and obesity and therefore investigating the direct effects of insulin in the brain is important.
My PhD research uses functional neuroimaging techniques to examine the effects and actions of insulin in the human brain. I am conducting two crossover MRI studies to look at the effects of intra-nasally administered insulin versus placebo in a group of healthy volunteers and a cohort of insulin resistant subjects.
We feed our subjects with small amounts of vanilla milkshake whilst they are in the scanner and measure their responses in reward associated areas both on and off the drug.
Working with my funders
Building a close working relationship with my funders has been integral to the success of my project. My project is co-funded by Unilever, and my supervisors at the company are not imaging scientists, so I had to develop my ability to explain complicated data in a simple and understandable way. This has really improved our working relationship, culminating in successfully securing additional funding to cover extra scanning time to implement a unique food-reward functional paradigm into my study.
During my MRes project I optimised a perfusion MRI technique (arterial spin labelling) to acquire high resolution cerebral blood flow images. This was the first time I had ever used a clinical MRI scanner and it was really amazing to coordinate with volunteers for the study and also control the scanner to acquire images and data for my project. My project was a huge success and I was fortunate to present this work as an oral presentation at the British Chapter of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine Conference (ISMRM) held at UCL. Through scientific presentation workshops in the CDT I was able to practice my talk in front of my peers as well as senior academics, receiving constructive and valuable feedback on my talk. Work during my first year on the development of resting state functional MRI acquisition and analysis methods led me to present an electronic poster at the ISMRM conference in Singapore this summer, which was another fantastic experience.
I was asked to collaborate with the CDT and the BioMedIA group at Imperial to produce a poster for the Imperial Science Festival, which was a huge success. In this poster, aimed at children and families, I presented the work that I have been doing during my PhD, which was a nice and gratifying opportunity for me as often the research you do on your PhD doesn’t always reach the public.