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Dr Gisela Helfer

Associate Professor

Faculty/Dept/School School of Chemistry and Bioscience
(Faculty of Life Sciences)
Telephone +441274 232149


Dr Helfer studied Biology and Zoology at the University of Salzburg, Austria. During her Master’s studies at the University of Salzburg, she investigated the neurobiology of learning and imprinting behaviour of Japanese quail chicks. She then moved to the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Andechs, Germany, where she initially worked on the hippocampal formation of migratory birds with Prof Ebo Gwinner. At the Max Planck Institute, Gisela developed a strong interest in chronobiology (circadian rhythms and seasonality research) which lead her to take a research assistant post at the same Institute to work on the circadian system of birds with Dr Roland Brandstaetter and Dr Andrew Fidler. In 2004, she commenced her PhD with Dr Brandstaetter at the University of Birmingham, where she graduated in 2007 for researching the molecular characterisation of the circadian system in passerine birds. After working as a teaching fellow at the University of Worcester, Gisela then took up a post as a research fellow at the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen in 2009 working with Prof Peter Morgan. Her research at the Rowett focused on the seasonal neuroendocrine mechanisms regulating body weight and energy balance. In 2016, Gisela was appointed to her first academic position as lecturer at the University of Bradford and she is now a senior lecturer in Physiology and Metabolism. 


Dr Helfer’s main interests and areas of expertise are in neuroendocrinology and chronobiology. Her research so far has centred on the control of circadian rhythms and seasonality in vertebrates and this has recently led to investigations in the central regulation of growth and energy balance

Professional activities

  • 01-JAN-07: University of Birmingham, UK - PhD
  • 01-JAN-01: University of Salzburg, Austria - MSc (Mag.rer.nat.)
  • 01-JAN-99: University of Salzburg, Austria - BSc
  • 01-JAN-18: University of Bradford - FHEA
  • 01-MAR-16: University of Bradford, UK - Lecturer in Biomedical Science
  • 01-JUL-09: Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen, UK -  Research Fellow
  • 01-JAN-09: School of Science and the Environment, University of Worcester, UK - Teaching Fellow
  • 01-JAN-07: University of Birmingham, UK - Research Fellow
  • 01-JAN-01:   Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany - Research Assistant
  • 01-AUG-14: British Society for Neuroendocrinology,
  • 01-AUG-16: British Society for Neuroendocrinology,
  • 01-AUG-16: British Society for Neuroendocrinology,
  • Organisation of Scientific Meetings: Alison Douglas Summer School “Food for Thought” with Full4Health (FP7 EU project), held in 07/2013 in Chiemsee, Germany
  • Organisation of Scientific Meetings: Annual meetings of the Aberdeen Centre for Energy Regulation and Obesity (ACERO) at the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen, UK, 2013 and 2014
  • Organisation of Scientific Meetings: Early Stage Researcher Symposium for the British Society for Neuroendocrinology, held in 08/2016 in Glasgow, UK
  • Organisation of Scientific Meetings: Early Stage Researcher Symposium for the French and British Neuroendocrine Societies (SNE and BSN), held in 09/2015 in Lille, France


Peer Reviewed Journal
TitleThe Chemerin-CMKLR1 Axis is Functionally important for Central Regulation of Energy Homeostasis (2022)
AuthorsYun, H: Dumbell, R: Hanna, K: Bowen, J; McLean, SL; Kantamneni, S; Pors, K; Wu, QF; Helfer, G
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
TitleEditorial: Women in integrative physiology: 2021. (2022)
AuthorsHelfer G;Kadmiel M;Jethwa PH;
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
TitleHypothalamic Rax+ tanycytes contribute to tissue repair and tumorigenesis upon oncogene activation in mice. (2021)
AuthorsMu W;Li S;Xu J;Guo X;Wu H;Chen Z;Qiao L;Helfer G;Lu F;Liu C;Wu QF;
JournalNature Communications
TitleThe effect of photoperiod and high fat diet on the cognitive response in photoperiod-sensitive F344 rats. (2021)
AuthorsMcLean SL;Yun H;Tedder A;Helfer G;
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
TitleEndocrine drivers of photoperiod response (2020)
AuthorsHelfer G.;Dumbell R.
JournalCurrent Opinion in Endocrine and Metabolic Research
TitlePleiotropic effects of proopiomelanocortin and VGF nerve growth factor inducible neuropeptides for the long-term regulation of energy balance (2020)
AuthorsHelfer G.;Stevenson T.J.
JournalMolecular and Cellular Endocrinology
TitlePleiotropic effects of proopiomelanocortin and VGF nerve growth factor inducible neuropeptides for the long-term regulation of energy balance. (2020)
AuthorsHelfer G;Stevenson TJ;
JournalMolecular and Cellular Endocrinology
TitleA unifying hypothesis for control of body weight and reproduction in seasonally breeding mammals (2019)
AuthorsHelfer, Gisela; Barrett, P.; Morgan, P.J.
TitleChemerin: A multifaceted adipokine involved in metabolic disorders (2018)
AuthorsHelfer, Gisela; Wu, Q-F.
TitleA seasonal switch in histone deacetylase gene expression in the hypothalamus and their capacity to modulate nuclear signaling pathways (2016)
AuthorsStoney, P.N.; Rodrigues, D.; Helfer, Gisela; Khatib, T.; Ashton, A.; Hay, E.A.; Starr, R.; Kociszewska, D.; Morgan, P.J.; McCaffery, P.J.
TitlePhotoperiodic and Diurnal Regulation of WNT Signaling in the Arcuate Nucleus of the Female Djungarian Hamster, Phodopus sungorus. (2016)
AuthorsBoucsein A;Benzler J;Hempp C;Stöhr S;Helfer G;Tups A;
TitleHypothalamic Wnt signalling and its role in energy balance regulation (2016)
AuthorsHelfer, Gisela; Tups, A.
TitleThyroid hormone activation of retinoic acid synthesis in hypothalamic tanycytes (2016)
AuthorsStoney, P.N.; Helfer, Gisela; Rodrigues, D.; Morgan, P.J.; McCaffery, P.J.
TitleA neuroendocrine role for chemerin in hypothalamic remodelling and photoperiodic control of energy balance (2016)
AuthorsHelfer, Gisela; Ross, A.W.; Thomson, L.M.; Mayer, C.D.; Stoney, P.N.; McCaffery, P.J.; Morgan, P.J.
TitlePhotoperiod Regulates Lean Mass Accretion, but Not Adiposity, in Growing F344 Rats Fed a High Fat Diet (2015)
AuthorsRoss, A.W.; Russell, L.; Helfer, Gisela; Thomson, L.M.; Dalby, M.J.; Morgan, P.J.
TitlePhotoperiodic Effects on Seasonal Physiology, Reproductive Status and Hypothalamic Gene Expression in Young Male F344 Rats (2015)
AuthorsTavolaro, F.M.; Thomson, L.M.; Ross, A.W.; Morgan, P.J.; Helfer, Gisela
TitleDual signal transduction pathways activated by TSH receptors in rat primary 1 tanycyte cultures (2015)
AuthorsBolborea, M.; Helfer, Gisela; Ebling, F.J.P.; Barrett, P.
TitleNeuromedin U partly mimics thyroid-stimulating hormone and triggers Wnt/β-catenin signalling in the photoperiodic response of F344 rats. (2013)
AuthorsHelfer G;Ross AW;Morgan PJ;
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
TitlePhotoperiod regulates vitamin A and Wnt/β-catenin signaling in F344 rats. (2012)
AuthorsHelfer G;Ross AW;Russell L;Thomson LM;Shearer KD;Goodman TH;McCaffery PJ;Morgan PJ;
TitleMelatonin receptor expression in the zebra finch brain and peripheral tissues. (2012)
AuthorsJones C;Helfer G;Brandstätter R;
JournalChronobiology International
TitlePhotoperiodic expression of two RALDH enzymes and the regulation of cell proliferation by retinoic acid in the rat hypothalamus. (2012)
AuthorsShearer KD;Stoney PN;Nanescu SE;Helfer G;Barrett P;Ross AW;Morgan PJ;McCaffery P;
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
TitleThyroid hormone signalling genes are regulated by photoperiod in the hypothalamus of F344 rats. (2011)
AuthorsRoss AW;Helfer G;Russell L;Darras VM;Morgan PJ;
JournalPLoS ONE
TitleMolecular analysis of clock gene expression in the avian brain. (2006)
AuthorsHelfer G;Fidler AE;Vallone D;Foulkes NS;Brandstaetter R;
JournalChronobiology International