My Study Appointment

Your study appointment is where the key part of your participation in our project takes place. 


We will ask you to complete a food and drink questionnaire online before you arrive, to collect your urine and faecal samples at home before your appointment, and to bring these to the University of Reading. 


Once you are here, we will relieve you of your samples, take some body composition measures, as well as a small blood sample. Following this, we will ask you to undergo an MRI scan of your brain and to complete some computer tasks and questionnaires. 


The study appointment should last approximately 3 hours. 

Download a printable version of this information here.

When is my study appointment?

·       Your study appointment will be scheduled ahead of time, for a date and time that you indicated a preference for. 

·       You should receive a 3-hour calendar invitation as well as an email confirming the date and time of your study appointment.

What should I do before my study appointment?

1.     Please respond to the appointment confirmation email to indicate whether:

a)    You can attend the study appointment, or

b)    You cannot attend the study appointment


2.     Complete the food and drink questionnaire:

·      You will receive instructions on how to complete the food and drink questionnaire using the eNutri platform before your study appointment. You can also find the instructions to do this here

·      Please ensure you complete this on the day of your study appointment, or the day before if you have some spare time.


3.     Collect your urine and faecal samples:

·       Please collect your urine and faecal samples using the sample kit and instructions provided. 

·       We ask that you provide the first urine of the morning, and as fresh a faecal sample as possible. 

·       Please use the ice pack we provide to keep your samples fresh.


Please note that you do not have to fast for your blood sample. Do stay hydrated and drink lots of water beforehand, as this will help with your blood sample collection.


For additional information, please refer to the appointment countdowns included in your sample kit. 

How do I get to my study appointment?

You will begin your Study Appointment at the Harry Nursten Building / Hugh Sinclair Unit, where you will be relieved of your samples and will have some body composition measures taken by one of our researchers. This includes your height, weight, body fat percentage, readings of your blood pressure, as well as a small blood sample.

Following this, we will ask you to head over to the Harry Pitt Building / School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences. This is where your MRI scan and computer tasks will take place, and it is where your Study Appointment will end.

We have provided detailed instructions on getting to your study appointment and navigating the University of Reading in a separate document, which you can find here


If you arrive early, late, or cannot find the location on the day, please contact us by emailing

What happens during my study appointment?

At the Harry Nursten Building/Hugh Sinclair Unit

1.     Hand over your samples to one of the researchers

·       We will relieve you of your samples when you arrive. 

2.     Body composition measures

·       One of our researchers will take your height, weight, and measure your body fat percentage. 

·       You will be asked to remove your shoes and socks. 

3.     Blood pressure readings

·       We will take three measures of your blood pressure to obtain an average of your readings. 

4.     Blood sample collection

·       One of our trained phlebotomists will collect a small blood sample of 9 millilitres (ml) in a single tube. 

At the Harry Pitt Building/School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences

5.     MRI safety forms and MRI scan

·       We will go through some health and safety forms with you to double check it is safe for you to be scanned. 

·       If you have any tattoos, we will cover these up using a cold, wet compress and some tape

·       As the MRI scanner is loud, we will give you some earplugs to minimise any noise. 

·       You’ll be given an emergency buzzer to squeeze in case you feel uncomfortable at any point. 

·       We will also attach a belt around your waist (over your shirt) and a pulse monitor to one of your fingers. This is because everyone breathes differently, and we will take this into account when analysing the data at a later stage. 

·       You will be in the MRI scanner for about an hour, and will undergo a series of short scans, which are 8-15 minutes long each. 

·       We will talk to you through the intercom in between scans to make sure you are comfortable. 

6.     Computer tasks and questionnaires

·       We’ll head to a computer room where you will carry out some computer tasks and complete questionnaires. 

·       The tasks that you will be invited to carry out will include watching stimuli (e.g., emotional faces or patterns) on a computer screen and making simple judgments on them using the computer keyboard. It will also involve a test of sensory abilities, where you will be asked to make simple judgments on tactile stimuli in the form of a vibration (which feels similar to the vibration felt on a mobile phone when receiving a message). 

·       We will finally ask you to complete some questionnaires on the computer. These will include a series of statements, and you’ll be asked to select the extent to which you agree or disagree with each statement. 

7.     Payment forms

·       If you are taking part in Work Package 1 (single-visit study), we will also ask you to complete a payment form at this point. This would mark the end of your participation! 

I'm taking part in WP2. How does this differ from WP1 and what do I need to do for my follow-up appointments? 

·       Taking part in Work Package 2 would involve all the above but at three additional time points (i.e. four study appointments in total). 

·       For WP2 you would also be asked to take a probiotic and/or placebo supplement between appointments 1 and 2, and appointments 3 and 4. 

·       You will be given more detailed instructions ahead of each appointment.

Why is it important to let you know whether I am attending?

·       It is the kindest thing you can do! 

·       The study researchers have a lot to prepare for your appointments, and so knowing whether or not you are attending your appointment is incredibly helpful. 

·       Letting us know that you are unable to attend will enable us to better plan. This way we can organise our days for other activities, notify any other researchers involved, and cancel any room or equipment bookings in good time. 

·       We assure you that we will not be upset if you are unable to attend your appointment. 


In case you would like to know, scheduling a single one of your appointments involves:

1.     Checking that the required researchers are available:

·       Two members of staff, including a phlebotomist, for your body composition measures and safely taking your blood sample

·       A researcher to process your faecal, urine and blood samples

·       Two trained members of staff to safely carry out your MRI scan

·       A researcher to set up and help you complete the behavioural tasks and questionnaires

2.     Checking that the required rooms and equipment are available, and booking these in:

·       A clinical room at the HSU, which includes equipment to safely take your blood sample, measure your blood pressure, and height, weight and body fat percentage

·       The MRI suite, where we do your MRI scan

·       The behavioural testing lab, where you complete your tasks and questionnaires

3.     Scheduling you in! You may have noticed this means we:

·       Send you calendar invitations

·       Schedule reminder emails to be sent to you 24 hours before your appointment

·       Send you health and safety forms to complete before your MRI


The sooner you can let us know if you are unable to make your appointment, the more helpful it is for us.