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Henry Lab research

CollaborationsStudent research projects | Publications

About Dr Belinda Henry

Belinda was awarded a BSc (Hons) degree in 1998 and her PhD in 2001 through Monash University. During her PhD, Belinda worked with Professor Iain Clarke at Prince Henry’s Institute of Medical Research and Associate Professor Alan Tilbrook at Monash University. The title of her thesis was The Neuroendocrinology of Body Weight in Sheep. Belinda’s PhD studies focused on the effects of diet-induced alterations in body weight on appetite-regulating systems in the hypothalamus. She also investigated the role of the fat-derived hormone leptin in ‘signaling’ nutritional status to the brain. After her PhD, Belinda worked at University of Bristol with Professor Stafford Lightman and Dr Christopher Lowry at the Henry Wellcome Laboratories for Integrative Neuroscience and Endocrinology. Belinda has now returned to Monash University and continues to investigate the neuroendocrine systems involved in the development of obesity.

Belinda is a member of the Neuroendocrine Research Group, with major focus on the neuroendocrine predisposition to obesity. Throughout her PhD Belinda demonstrated that diet-induced obesity evoked changes in appetite-regulating systems that reflect a compensatory mechanism to either weight gain or weight loss. For example, in Lean animals, genes that encode peptides involved in stimulating food intake are generally up-regulated in effort to promote hunger drive and increase body weight. Currently, research effort is towards creating models of weight gain, in order to understand endocrine mechanisms of predisposition to obesity. To this end, her focus is on the interactive role between the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis and the growth hormone axis. Belinda investigates the effects of altered hormonal status on appetite-regulating systems in the brain and peripheral thermogenic activity in adipose tissue, as well as neuroendocrine and metabolic function. Belinda works alongside Professor Iain Clarke of the Department of Physiology at Monash University as well as other members of the Neuroendocrine Research Group.


Our research

Current projects

  1. Sex differences in the control of thermogenesis
  2. Stress, weight loss and predisposition to obesity
  3. Role of thermogenesis in weight regulation in humans

Visit Dr Henry's Monash research profile to see a full listing of current projects.

Research activities

The metabolic neuroendocrinology laboratory focuses on understanding how body weight is regulated. We have a particular interest in understanding how energy expenditure occurs within mammals. Our work primarily focuses on thermogenesis, which is a specialised process where the body expends energy in the form of heat. Our work aims to understand how the brain regulates thermogenesis. We have a number of unique and novel models that allow us to characterise the control of body weight, food intake and energy expenditure. The metabolic neuroendocrine group has a particular interest in understanding how the following impact on energy homeostasis and weight control:

  • Gender differences and the effects of sex steroids
  • Stress and the stress hormone cortisol
  • Exercise

We know that many people eat when they’re stressed, often choosing high-fat, sugary ‘comfort foods’. But how and why stress triggers this behaviour, and obesity, has remained a mystery until now. Our researchers recently investigated the link between the stress hormone cortisol and obesity. They showed a link – for the first time – between the level of cortisol when stressed, and behaviour that may be associated with weight gain. Their research revealed those who responded to stress by releasing less cortisol were likely to eat less when stressed and also to increase their physical activity and burn more calories. By contrast those who responded with more cortisol, who have a predisposition to becoming obese, did not reduce their food intake in response to stress and burnt less calories. By looking at cortisol levels in response to stress we can identify those that are susceptible to gaining weight and also determine if they are also more likely to find it hard to lose weight. We can then intervene early to help prevent this disease, as well as other complications associated with weight gain such as heart disease, cancer and type two diabetes.
Research lead author: Dr Belinda Henry. Published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, volume 47, May 2014 


Collaborations

We collaborate with many scientists and research organisations around the world. 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 Henry 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 Dr Belinda Henry regarding potential projects that align with the presented research themes.