Associate Professor Spencer's research focuses on metabolism, stress, inflammation and satiety signalling, including early life programming of the obese brain.
The early life environment is fundamentally important in dictating the type of adult we become. In our laboratory we investigate how the early life environment influences our physiology to change the way our bodies process food, stress, and challenges to the immune system, and whether these changes are permanent or reversible.
- How does overfeeding in early life influence long-term neuroimmune function?
- How does overfeeding in early life influence the stress axis long-term?
- How does early life diet influence puberty onset and the ability to reproduce?
- What is the role of ghrelin in stress?
- What are the roles of ghrelin and leptin in programming early brain development?
- How are teens more susceptible to the effects of a high fat and low exercise lifestyle than adults?
Academic distinctions, awards and funding since 2010
- NHMRC Project Grant – Miller, Spencer, Wong (2014-2016)
- ARC Discovery Project Grant (2013-15)
- Cass Foundation Science and Medicine Grant – Miller, Andrews, and Spencer (2013)
- RMIT University VC Senior Research Fellowship (2012-2015)
- Monash University Advancing Women in Research Grant (2012)
- Australia Research Council (ARC) Future Fellows Fellowship (2011-2015)
- National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project Grant - Andrews and Spencer (2011-2013)
- Monash Research Accelerator Program Award; Recognizing excellence within Monash University (2011-2012)
- ARC Discovery Project Grant (2010-12)
You can find out more about Dr Spencer’s work by checking out this interview:
Associate Professor Spencer's role at RMIT is as a research only Associate Professor, but she is also involved in:
- 2015-present: SHS HDR Co-ordinator (50%)
- 2013-present: SHS Honours Program Co-ordinator
Administration within RMIT University
- SHS Research Committee Member
- Health Innovations Research Institute Community Outreach Representative.
- Health Innovations Research Institute Executive Committee Member
- First Aid Officer, Module C
- RMIT Animal Ethics Committee Member (B)
- RMIT Animal Management Committee Member
- Panel member: Fundamentals of Grant Development workshop
- PhD Queensland University (Au). 2004
- BSc (Hons I) University of Otago (NZ). 2001
Editorial positions since 2010
- Guest Editor: Brain Behavior and Immunity Named Series “Neonatal Programming by Inflammation” (for publication 2017).
- Editorial Board: Brain Behavior and Immunity (2015-present)
- Invited panel member Victorian Obesity Congress (VOC) Expert Panel “What to do about Obesity” (VOC 2013)
- Topic Editor: Perinatal Programming of Immune Function. Frontiers in Neuroendocrine Science (2013)
- Invited panel member ASMR Professional Development Session (AHMR Congress 2012)
- NHMRC Postdoctoral Reference Group Committee member (2012-present)
- Editorial Board: ISRN Stroke (2012-present)
- Editorial Board: Review Editor Frontiers in Neuroendocrine Science (2010-present)
- Australasian Neuroendocrinology Group (2007-present)
- Australian Neuroscience Society (2007-present)
- Endocrine Society of Australia (2007-present)
- International Neuroendocrine Federation (2007-present)
- Society for Neuroscience (2003-present)
PhD applicants should have a MSc, 1st class honours or equivalent. All applications and inquires should be sent to Dr Sarah Spencer firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in research, read more information
- Sominsky, L.,Ziko, I.,Nguyen, T.,Andrews, Z.,Spencer, S. (2017). Early life disruption to the ghrelin system with over-eating is resolved in adulthood in male rats In: Neuropharmacology, 113, 21 - 30
- Sominsky, L.,Ziko, I.,Spencer, S. (2017). Neonatal overfeeding disrupts pituitary ghrelin signalling in female rats long-term; Implications for the stress response In: PLoS One, 12, 1 - 18
- Nguyen, J.,Ali, S.,Kosari, S.,Woodman, O.,Spencer, S.,Killcross, S.,Jenkins, T. (2017). Western diet chow consumption in rats induces striatal neuronal activation while reducing dopamine levels without affecting spatial memory in the radial arm maze In: Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 11, 1 - 10
- Sominsky, L.,Ziko, I.,Nguyen, T.,Quach, J.,Spencer, S. (2017). Hypothalamic effects of neonatal diet: reversible and only partially leptin dependent In: Journal of Endocrinology, 234, 41 - 56
- Spencer, S.,Meyer, U. (2017). Perinatal programming by inflammation In: Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 63, 1 - 7
- Tolcos, M.,Petratos, S.,Hirst, J.,Wong, F.,Spencer, S.,Azhan, A.,Emery, B.,Walker, D. (2017). Blocked, delayed, or obstructed: What causes poor white matter development in intrauterine growth restricted infants? In: Progress in Neurobiology, 154, 62 - 77
- Sominsky, L.,Hodgson, D.,McLaughlin, E.,Smith, R.,Wall, H.,Spencer, S. (2017). (In Press) Linking stress and infertility: a novel role for ghrelin In: Endocrine Reviews, , 1 - 68
- Spencer, S.,D'Angelo, H.,Soch, A.,Watkins, L.,Maier, S.,Barrientos, R. (2017). High-fat diet and aging interact to produce neuroinflammation and impair hippocampal- and amygdalar-dependent memory In: Neurobiology of Aging, 58, 88 - 101
- Ziko, I.,Sominsky, L.,Nguyen, T.,Yam, K.,De Luca, S.,Korosi, A.,Spencer, S. (2017). Hyperleptinemia in Neonatally Overfed Female Rats Does Not Dysregulate Feeding Circuitry. In: Frontiers in Endocrinology, , 1 - 11
- De Luca, S.,Ziko, I.,Dhuna, K.,Sominsky, L.,Tolcos, M.,Stokes, L.,Spencer, S. (2017). Neonatal overfeeding by small-litter rearing sensitizes hippocampal microglial responses to immune challenge: reversal with neonatal repeated injections of saline as well as minocycline. In: Journal of Neuroendocrinology, , 1 - 38
- Targeting central inflammation to combat obesity and obesity-related cognitive dysfunction. Funded by: NHMRC Career Development Fellowship Grant 2016 from (2017 to 2020)
- Identifying biomarkers to predict Alzheimer's, dementia, and poor cognitive ageing. Funded by: Brain Foundation Research Gifts Program Grant 2016 from (2017 to 2017)
- Reversing premature brain ageing in obesity: neuroinflammation as a target. Funded by: Club Melbourne Fellowship Grant 2016 from (2016 to 2017)
- Investigation of a novel stroke therapy. Funded by: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project Grants 2013 from (2014 to 2017)
- Optimising growth rates by postnatal programming of brain pathways regulating metabolism. Funded by: ARC Discovery Projects 2013 from (2013 to 2015)
1 PhD Completions6 PhD Current Supervisions