PhD in alcohol dependence and ketogenic diet at Mental Health Services in the Capital Region of Denmark and Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences University of Copenhagen

Paid 3-year PhD position with start August 1, 2020 or as agreed.

En stilling som lønnet ph.d.-stipendiat ved Psykiatrisk Center København, Rigshospitalet til besættelse pr. 1. august 2020 eller efter aftale.

The project

Alcohol dependence is undertreated in Denmark and worldwide, and many patients relapse. There is a strong need for new treatments based on a better understanding of how alcohol, and abstinence after prolonged alcohol use, affect the brain. After alcohol ingestion, the brain partly switches its energy use from glucose to the alcohol metabolite acetate – and more so in heavy drinkers, in whom the switch persists after abrupt abstinence. This led to the hypothesis that when acetate levels suddenly drop, the brain may be “starved” despite normal blood glucose, and that this may contribute to withdrawal symptoms. We further hypothesized that ketone bodies, like acetate, can act as alternative fuel in the brain and alleviate withdrawal symptoms. We found that ketogenic diet or a ketone supplement to regular diet reduced acute symptoms in rats and mice. Here we will test 1) whether ketogenic diet or ketone supplements can reduce prolonged alcohol withdrawal symptoms that contribute to relapse, 2) whether they can reduce alcohol-induced brain damage, and 3) whether co-dependence on nicotine changes effectiveness of ketogenic treatments. The project combines extensive behavioral testing with neuroimaging and neurotransmitter analysis.

The research team

Project leader Morgane Thomsen (morgane.hermann.thomsn@regionh.dk) is an established behavioral pharmacology researcher in the field of substance use disorders. Collaborators on the project bring a deep knowledge of the brain’s energy and neurotransmitter metabolism, the effects of alcohol on the brain in humans and in rodents, and neuroimaging techniques: Professors Graeme Mason and Helene Benveniste, Yale School of Medicine, and Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and senior research at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (USA). The project is also in close collaboration with Professor Anders Fink-Jensen (director, Laboratory of Neuropsychiatry), who is currently conducting a clinical trial on the effects of ketone supplement in alcohol detoxification at Mental Health Services, Capital Region of Denmark (clinicaltrials.gov NCT03878225). Our collaborators at NIAAA are similarly performing a clinical trial testing the effects of ketogenic diet on alcohol withdrawal symptoms (NCT03255031). Dr. Pia Weikop and Professor Maiken Nedergaard, University of Copenhagen, bring to the project expertise with in vivo microdialysis and neuroimaging (Panum nuclear magnetic resonance Core Facility).

Job description

We are looking for highly motivated candidates with an excellent academic background in Neuroscience, Behavioral Pharmacology, Energy Metabolism, Neuroimaging, or related disciplines.

Your key tasks as a PhD student are:

  • Carry through an independent research project under supervision
  • Complete PhD courses or other equivalent education corresponding to approx. 30 ECTS points
  • Participate in active research environments including a stay at another research team
  • Obtain experience with scientific writing, speaking, teaching, or other dissemination related to your PhD project
  • Write a PhD thesis on the basis of your project
Key criteria for the assessment of applicants

Applicants must have qualifications corresponding to a master’s degree related to the subject area of the project.

Essential experience and skills:

  • You have a Master’s degree in biological sciences or similar
  • You are authorized to work with laboratory animals (i.e., have completed course in Laboratory Animal Science, FELASA accredited)
  • You have an active interest in addiction disorders including alcohol use disorder
  • You have excellent written English skills and good oral English skills
Desirable experience and skills:

  • You have experience with behavioral studies in small animals
  • Previous publications
Send your written application, in Danish or English, via the link. Please attach:

  • Application letter
  • Curriculum vitae listing education, relevant course work and technical skills, professional experience, research experience, scientific publications and presentations
  • Copy of diploma
  • Laboratory animal course certificate
Skriftlig ansøgning, enten på dansk eller engelsk, modtages via LINK på opslaget. Følgende dokumenter vedlægges:

  • Motiveret ansøgning
  • Curriculum vitae med uddannelse, relevant kursusaktivitet og teknisk erfaring, erhvervserfaring, forskningserfaring, videnskabelige publikationer og præsentationer
  • Kopi af eksamensbevis
  • FELASA kursusbevis



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