U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Research Summary/In Plain Language

Research Summary

Research Goal

Our goal is to better understand mechanisms controlling food intake and individual differences in ability to regulate food choices. We are also trying to understand how behavioral and neurocognitive processes affect eating behavior and metabolic factors.​

Current Research

My research focuses on the integration of physiological, neuropsychological and behavioral factors in the study of obesity and eating behaviors. Mechanisms controlling food intake and individual differences in ability to regulate food choices are topics that are poorly understood. It is well-known that psychological factors (e.g. emotional states) and neurocognitive brain functions (e.g. the prefrontal cortex, which is mainly involved in self-control, reward processing and decision making) can influence appetitive behavior and weight change.  In my lab, we are trying to understand how these behavioral and cognitive processes affect eating behavior and metabolic factors using psychological questionnaires and neuropsychological performance tasks. Additionally, I have a long-standing interest in the study of binge eating disorder, the night eating syndrome, and the relationship between stress and eating.

I am the PI of two ongoing studies. The first examines the effects of non-invasive brain stimulation (transcranial direct current stimulation [tDCS]) to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) on food intake and weight loss. In a second study, we are interested in understanding whether behavioral and dietary adherence to any diet plan (even one which does not produce weight loss) is difficult for both lean and overweight individuals, or whether people who are overweight have more difficulty adhering to diet plans compared to those who are relatively lean.

Applying our Research

Understanding the influences of cognitive function, psychological well-being and metabolic factors in obesity could lead to the development of new treatment strategies. These factors could then be used to help constructing patient profiles to aid in identifying appropriate interventions and improve weight loss outcomes.

Need for Further Study

It is critical to identify the role of the brain in regulating food intake and reward-related behaviors.  In addition, developing a greater understanding of the relationship between behavior and physiology will enable researchers to develop and test more effective weight loss and/or weight gain prevention models.​​