Brain and Behavior Program

The IFNH Program on Brain and Behavior will provide an integrative approach to understanding how diet, physical activity, digestion, and the microbiome influence mood, cognition, and behavior. Specifically, our research focus will be centered on how the overabundance of affordable calorie dense foods has changed our dietary habits, eating behaviors, and attitudes towards food in the last 30 years. Most challenging to these scientific pursuits are understanding the long term neural and physiological consequences of food overabundance on the childhood and adolescent development. As a consequence, a new psychological discipline known as "Food Addiction", has emerged in the last decade. The study of food addiction is based on the concept that the intrinsic reinforcing eating behaviors are driven by food that is fundamentally identical to substance dependence observed with recreational drugs. In addition to understanding the consequences of food overabundance, our research program will be focused on understanding the intrinsic properties of food, and neural and physiological changes that lead to overeating and dependency.