Amy Reichelt

Amy Reichelt

School of Biomedicine

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD (as Co-Supervisor) - email supervisor to discuss availability.

Dr Amy Reichelt is an emerging independent research leader at the intersection of neuroscience and nutrition, who is passionate about uncovering the neural mechanisms that underpin how diet impacts brain health and mental wellbeing across the lifespan, with a particular focus on the adolescent brain.

After completing her PhD in Neuroscience at Cardiff University UK, which investigated the cognitive impact of dementia neuropathologies on executive function using transgenic models of frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer's disease, Amy went on to undertake postdoctoral research in how food memories can be updated in the brain, through the process of memory reconsolidation. This research led her to become intrigued by how diet itself impacts behaviour and cognition. Amy secured a prestigious ARC DECRA fellowship at UNSW Sydney where she led a program of research dedicated to understanding how obesogenic high fat and high sugar diets disrupted the refinement of the adolescent brain and altered fundamental learning and memory processes. This work was extended during her lectureship at RMIT University, pinpointing adolescence as a period of vulnerability to the negative consequences of obesogenic diets, and further funding in the form of an ARC Discovery Project to investigate the neuronal populations implicated in diet-induced cognitive decline, and the transgenerational impacts of obesity.

In 2018, Amy relocated to Western University, Canada as a Canada First Research Excellence Fund "BrainsCAN" Senior Fellow, where she worked with global leaders in developing highly translational cognitive tests for rodents which can be combined with cutting-edge neurotechnologies (i.e. Fiber-photometry and optogenetics). Furthermore, she extended her research into the neurobiological impact of diet to its effects on non-neuronal factors - primarily the brain's extracellular matrix - as a critical controller of both neuroplasticity and neuroprotection.

Amy has recently returned back to Australia as a Senior Lecturer and Research Group Leader within Adelaide Medical School, with funding from an NHMRC Investigator Grant and the Neurosurgical Research Foundation. Here she will lead research into the fundamental role of the extracellular matrix in obesity-induced cognitive decline, neurodegenerative diseases, neurodevelopmental processes and neurotrauma.

In recognition of her research excellence and commitment to the clear communication of science to the public, Amy has received an NSW Tall Poppy Award and RMIT Media Star award. She has written over 25 articles for The Conversation and has been interviewed in the media as a neuroscience expert by The New York Times, ABC radio, CBC radio, The Project, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, and SBS radio to name but a few. She has been featured on the ABC RN podcasts "All in the mind" and "Brain Matters". Her most career-defining moment to date was the presentation of a talk "This is your brain on sugar" at TEDxSydney.

Research overview

My primary research goal is to define the cognitive and functional impacts of obesity and nutrition on the brain. This research program has immediate relevance to a growing public health issue in Australia (and worldwide), where nearly a third of all children, and two-thirds of all adults, are overweight or obese.

I use a multidimensional approach involving cutting-edge behavioural and neuropharmacology paradigms – including transgenic mice (Cre-lox, KI and KO models), in vivo fiber-photometry (e.g. GCaMP signaling and use of biosensors), chemogenetics, and optogenetics to study cognition and the functional effects of simulated ‘junk food’ diets in rodents; combined with molecular and chemical profiling of the post mortem rodent brain. This framework spans from individual gene expression, neurochemical alterations of neurons and their surrounding extracellular components (perineuronal nets), to long-lasting effects on neurodevelopment to provide a comprehensive picture of the neurobiological impact of obesity from the micro- to macro-scale.

I have built a strong reputation as an emerging thought leader in neuroscience and nutrition fields, demonstrated through numerous grants, awards, and speaking invitations.



How junk food shapes the developing brain - The Conversation

Your brain on sugar: What the science actually says - The Conversation


TEDxSydney - This is your Brain on Sugar



Research projects available

Title: Harnessing the brain's extracellular matrix to understand cognition

A PhD student position with a domestic research stipend is available for a highly motivated individual with an interest in studying the neurobiological and cognitive impact of obesity using a combination of behavioural, molecular, cellular, genetic, and bioinformatics approaches. The project will use mouse models of dietary obesity with viral manipulations of the extracellular matrix in tandem with the assessment of high-order cognition and in vivo calcium imaging / optogenetics.

Projects available for: HDR
Location: Helen Mayo Building / SAHMRI
Research project start: Semester 1 and 2
Special requirements: N/A



Title: Saving the brain's safety nets

In this project we will examine the role of the extracellular matrix in the severity and prognosis of neurotrauma, using rodent models in combination with microscopy, gene expression analysis and cognitive assessment.

Projects available for: Third Year / Honours / HDR
Location: Helen Mayo Building / SAHMRI
Research project start: Semester 1 and 2
Special requirements: N/A

2021 – 2025     National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grant - Emerging Leader - Harnessing the extracellular matrix to fight obesity-induced cognitive impairment - $650K AUD

2020 – 2021     Neurosurgical Research Foundation (NSF) (CIA) - The role of diet in mediating the effect on cognitive impairment and cortical perineuronal net alterations following traumatic brain injury - $30K AUD. CIB Dr Frances Corrigan, CIC A/Prof Lyndsey Collins-Praino

2018 – 2020      BrainsCAN Tier 1 Fellowship - $225K CAD

2018 – 2021     Australian Research Council Discovery Project (Primary CI) - Functional impact of high energy diets on memory encoding. CI Prof Anthony Hannan (Florey Department, University of Melbourne) - $428K AUD

2018 – 2021     National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project Grant (CIE) - Novel pharmacological strategies to treat cognitive dysfunction in COPD. CIA Prof Ross Vlahos - $872K AUD

2018                RMIT Transitional Research Grants for Teaching and Research Staff (CIB) - Early gastrointestinal microbiota determinants of child behaviour at age 2. CIA Dr Amy Loughman $10K AUD

2015                UNSW Science Early Career Grant (Sole CI) - Impact of sucrose bingeing in adolescent rats on brain reward system connectivity. $7.3K AUD

2014 – 2017     Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award (Sole CI) - Does obesity alter psychological associations to food-related cues, contexts and responses? $375K AUD

  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2021 Co-Supervisor Exploring the neurobiological bases of affective states Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Jane Cerina Morphett
  • Other Supervision Activities

    Date Role Research Topic Location Program Supervision Type Student Load Student Name
    2019 - 2020 Principal Supervisor Metformin as a therapeutic intervention for diet-induced memory impairments Western University, Canada - Honours - Tina Joseph
    2018 - ongoing External Supervisor The efficacy of metformin at reversing diet-induced cognitive impairments Western University, Canada - Doctorate - Olivia Ghosh-Swaby
    2018 - 2019 Principal Supervisor Investigating the role of perineuronal nets in hippocampal dependent memory Western University, Canada - Honours - Ashmita Singh

Connect With Me
External Profiles