Neurobiology and Obesity Lab (NBO)
WHAT WE DO
We research how altered brain function leads to changes in metabolism, hormones and feeding behavior observed in obesity.
Obesity is one of the largest public health problems worldwide and is largely due to excess intake of palatable foods (rich in calories from fat and sugar), which creates an energy surplus that accumulates as fat. It might seem odd that we seek and consume palatable foods despite their negative impact on our health. Yet, this is not a problem of willpower to choose healthy foods, but one with biological roots that delve into our evolution and survival as a species. For most of our history, food was scarce and palatable foods were not easily available. So, our brain evolved different mechanisms so we find food intake rewarding and learn which foods have high caloric content; all to increase the chances that we will consume enough calories to survive. Yet, for most the modern environment is not one of food scarcity, but one with easy access to palatable food that engages our brain and drives us to eat palatable food even if we are not hungry. Thus, we call the modern environment obesogenic. Further, repeated intake of palatable food alters the brain mechanisms that regulate feeding, facilitating choice and excess intake of palatable foods. We aim to understand how our brain regulates food choice and intake and how these mechanisms are dysregulated in our current obesogenic environment.
We use a combination of behavioral analysis, biochemical and immunohistological techniques to study feeding behavior. We have also developed our own behavioral equipment using 3D printing and open-source electronics.