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Substance Use and Appetite Research Group

The Substance Use and Appetite Research Group investigates the social, biological and cognitive drivers of substance and appetitive behaviours. With a view to improving strategies for promoting successful behaviour change, we examine the psychological and social processes shaping alcohol, consumption of substances and food, as well as studying the consequences of intake across the lifespan.

Our research is facilitated by a state-of-the-art simulation laboratory which enables us to explore the effects of intoxication in a bar-like environment, meaning that our findings better represent the contexts in which people consume alcohol, and subsequent interventions can be effectively designed to work in real world settings.

The Substance Use and Appetite Research Group is a member of the Liverpool Centre for Alcohol Research, connected to Liverpool Health Partners. The Substance Use and Appetite Research group is a member of the Liverpool Centre for Alcohol Research, connected to Liverpool Health Partners. We also work across various sectors including public, health, education and charities to influence practice, policy, and public engagement. Our work is regional, national and international in its context and reach. We collaborate with colleagues in the UK, Ghana, US, France, China, Australia, Spain, and Singapore.

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We use a variety of research methods in both laboratory and real-world settings that include:

  • Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS)
  • Eye-tracking
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)/ Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)
  • Real-time examination of substance use behaviours, and cognitions, using field observation techniques, interviews, questionnaires and specifically-designed Smartphone apps
  • Alcohol administration
  • Blood, hair and saliva analyses under the Human Tissue Act (in accordance with Edge Hill University’s Human Tissue Act Committee)

Featured projects

Research Group Coordinator, Dr JoAnne Puddephatt outlines the work of the Substance Use and Appetite Research Group and how you can get involved.

Dr Lauren McGale’s research is situated around food marketing and impacts on eating behaviour, especially for children. She explores the impact of food packaging and how this relates to consumers’ purchasing behaviour particularly around sustainable food choices

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Professor Philip Murphy’s research focuses on clinical aspects of treating heroin and cocaine dependence, and the implications for cognitive performance of the use of ‘ecstasy’ and cannabis. His recent research has explored the role of “psychological preparedness” in transitions in abstinence.

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Dr Rebecca Monk, Professor Derek Heim and Dr Adam Qureshi’s research focuses on the social and cognitive drivers relating to alcohol thoughts and behaviours. Their findings suggest that where we are, who we are with, and how we are feeling impact on how much we are likely to think about alcohol and engage in drinking behaviours.

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Professor Rebecca Monk’s Inaugural lecture

Pour decisions: Understanding alcohol in context

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Insights for the community

Our research is being used to inform community initiatives and support. Specifically this relates to supporting people who may be coming off recreational drugs such as heroin and also about issues relating to alcohol consumption.

How to reduce your substance use

What our research says about alcohol consumption
What our research says about coming off heroin
Bases in the research for our summary points
Further resources


PhD researchers

  • Mouktika Ayyagari
  • Jonathan Williams
  • Chloe Tarleton

In the Media

  • Dr Lauren McGale has been invited to speak about her research on food marketing and eating behaviour on several local and national radio stations, in addition to a TV interview on BBC Scotland’s news programme, The Nine, where she was asked to discuss recent legislation relating to mandatory calorie labelling on menus.
  • Dr Lauren McGale has contributed to a series of WHO commissioned reviews (3 x published) which inform the pending update to the WHO recommendations for global policies on food marketing to children.
  • Dr Jo-Anne Puddephatt and colleagues research has been featured within Alcohol Change UK’s New Horizons programme for exploring how people’s experience of alcohol harm is affected by their membership of, identification with, or exclusion from, groups and communities.

  • Professor Philip Murphy submitted a review of findings in this field, including the findings from our own laboratory, to the Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee 2022 enquiry into drug use. That review was accepted by the committee and has been published on the parliamentary website.
  • Coverage of work by Dr Rebecca Monk, Professor Derek Heim and Dr Adam Qureshi has featured widely in national and international radio and media, including BBC Breakfast, The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Star (front page), The Daily Mail, Forbes, The Daily Express GQ.


Get involved

There are various ways you can get involved in our Substance Use and Appetite research.