Brain Lab

The Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre specialises in assessing the effects of foods, food components and functional ingredients on psychological functioning across the lifespan – from childhood to old age.  We do this using our own customisable computerised  cognitive and mood assessment systems and a range of specialised methods.

Our Capabilities
The Computerised Mental Performance Assessment System (COMPASS) is a user-friendly platform for delivering cognitive tasks. This software was designed in-house to fit the unique needs of nutrition intervention research.

Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) is a state-of-the art non-invasive technique that  monitors the local tissue oxygenation of the brain enabling us to investigate the effects of nutritional interventions on cerebral blood flow parameters.


Trans-Cranial Doppler (TCD) sonography.  An innovative non-invasive method of measuring cerebral blood flow velocity from the basal intra-cerebral vessels through the intact skull


Our Observed Multi-tasking Stressor (OMS) paradigm allows for a complete assessment of psychobiological response to acute stress in humans
Our environmental chamber is a room-sized sealed unit where climatic conditions such as temperature, humidity and oxygen pressure can be manipulated. It can be used to induce cognitive deficits in those at the peak of cognitive functionality, and assess how foods or bioactive constituents can preserve cognitive performance during periods of compromise; e.g. times of increased cognitive load or during natural ageing.
Indirect Calorimetry is a non-invasive technique that assesses changes in  energy expenditure or fat and carbohydrate metabolism in response to food or bioactive constituents under various conditions including stress.

Why Food affects the Brain: an evolutionary perspective

Plants evolved to interact with the brains of insects, their closest neighbours, in order to survive, by attracting them for pollination, or repelling them or dissuading them from eating plant tissue. Therefore, plant chemicals that have evolved to target the brains of insects then have the same effects on the human brain.

Humans have a long and close relationship with plant-derived chemicals that alter brain function. Most of us reach for a cup of tea or coffee in the morning, many smoke tobacco; a few consume heavyweight drugs such as cocaine, morphine or cannabis.

If you give the chemicals we think of as social drugs to insects, the change in behaviour is often strikingly similar to that seen in humans. For instance, caffeine and amphetamine make insects more active and less sleepy, LSD makes them confused, cocaine makes bees dance, and morphine kills insect pain. And all of these chemicals also stop insects from eating plant tissue and prove fatal to them at higher doses.

Professor David Kennedy, Director of the Brain Performance and Nutrition Research Centre