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Cowley Lab research

CollaborationsStudent research projects | Publications

About Professor Michael Cowley

Professor Michael Cowley received his PhD from Monash University, then did post-doctoral work at The Vollum Institute in Oregon, working with Roger Cone. In 2001 he established his laboratory at Oregon National Primate Research Center and returned to Australia in 2008. He is best known for mapping the neural circuits that senses nutrients to control appetite and body weight. He is the Head of the Department of Physiology at Monash University.

Michael is a fellow of The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, a Veski Innovation Fellow and, in 2009, was awarded The Australian Science Minister’s Prize for Australian Life Scientist of the Year. In 2015, Michael was the recipient of the inaugural Jacques Miller Medal for Experimental Biomedicine from the Australian Academy of Science. Michael has published more than 100 papers and book chapters, is the inventor of 85 patents, the drug Contrave ™ and co-founded Orexigen Therapeutics.

Our research

Current projects

  1. Novel adjunctive therapeutics for type 1 diabetes.
  2. Can we recruit the cold receptor system in the fight against obesity and type 2 diabetes?
  3. The role of the melanocortin system in the control of bodyweight and glucose homeostasis.
  4. New treatments for obesity and cardiovascular disease.
  5. Mechanisms of stress-induced eating.
  6. Understanding cardiovascular disease in women: Obesity and menopause.
  7. What causes hypertension in pregnancy?
  8. How does the brain regulate peripheral glucose uptake?
  9. The gut-brain axis in metabolism and disease.

Visit Professor Cowley's Monash research profile to see a full listing of current projects.

Research activities

The global research mission of the Metabolic Neurophysiology Lab is to understand the causes of metabolic disorders and their associated co-morbidities. We aim to map the neurohormonal feedback loops that are critical to healthy metabolic function. Our lab strives to identify circulatory and sub-cellular metabolic signallers. We want to characterise genes, molecules, neurotransmitters and neurons responsible for regulating blood glucose, feeding behaviour, fat storage, energy expenditure and cardiovascular function. A deeper understanding of how the body and brain operate in healthy states will help us identify components that change in pathophysiological conditions like obesity and diabetes. Our studies have and will continue to fuel the development of novel drugs for the treatment of metabolic disease.


  • Optogenetic & chemogenetic modulation of neuronal activity
  • In vivo single-cell calcium imaging
  • Central nervous system & adeno-associated virus studies
  • Body weight & food intake (manual & BioDAQ) studies
  • Orogastric and intragastric feeding
  • Indirect gas calorimetry
  • Climate chamber studies
  • Whole animal plethysmography
  • Euglycemic Clamp studies
  • Infusion studies
  • Continuous telemetry – cardiovascular, blood glucose, temperature & locomotor activity studies
  • Stress-induced overfeeding experimental models
  • DEXA body composition analysis
  • Echo MRI body composition analysis
  • Glucose/insulin/pyruvate tolerance-testing
  • Ex vivo tissue analysis
  • Ex vivo peptide secretion analysis
  • Radioimmuno assay
  • Immunohistochemistry & ELISA
  • Confocal and light sheet microscopy

Figure 1: Obese mouse models are critical to our understanding of human obesity and obesity-associated diseases.

Figure 2: Immunohistochemistry is an invaluable tool that allows us to visualise neurons, proteins and receptors.

Figure 3: The central nervous system is central to energy balance.
We need a deeper understanding of how the brain and body communicate and control metabolism.


In addition to multiple industry partners, the Metabolic Neurophysiology Laboratory holds many collaborative projects with the Integrated Physiology Laboratory (Simonds Lab), also within the Monash BDI. Click on the map to see the details for each of these collaborators (dive into specific publications and outputs by clicking on the dots).

Student research projects

The Cowley Lab offers a variety of Honours, Masters and PhD projects for students interested in joining our group. There are also a number of short-term research opportunities available. You are encouraged to contact Professor Michael Cowley regarding potential projects that align with the presented research themes.