The prevalence of obesity has increased rapidly over the past 30 years, and obesity-related illnesses are now a leading cause of death in the US. There are multiple reasons for this growth, but increases in food intake are a large contributor. Put simply, Americans consume about 25% more calories than we did 30 years ago. While the solution to this problem appears simple – eat less! – more and more people are finding this impossible to do. Why is it so difficult for us to eat less? And what’s changed in the past 30 years to make it even more difficult?
The main goal of the lab is to understand how diet affects reward circuitry in the brain. The lab investigates the hypothesis that certain diets can alter and impair neural circuits that regulate reward processing and food consumption, similar to how drugs of abuse impair these circuits in addicts. The lab uses a variety of approaches to examine this hypothesis, including behavioral testing, in vivo electrophysiology, and optogenetics.