Dept. of Psychology
University of Texas at El Paso
PhD, Psychobiology, 1998
University of Cincinnati Medical College
Postdoctoral Fellow, Behavioral Neurobiology, 1998-2000
Research interests include the development of animal models of eating disorders, mainly bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and frank obesity. I use environmental factors to elicit binge-eating including a history of dieting (via cyclic caloric-restriction-refeeding), stress, access to highly palatable food, and nonfood cues associated with overeating. To identify physiological processed underlying binge-eating in these models, I utilize behavioral approach-avoidance paradigms, systemic and central pharmacological manipulations, and in vitro and in vivo assay of brain and blood using high-performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection coupled with microdialysis. Target endocrine and neural substrates found to be altered by the above environmental factors include frontal-mesolimbic peptide YY (PYY) levels, opioid receptors, and dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine levels. Within the hypothalamus, melanocortin system substrates direct changes in feeding for reward and metabolic need. I am also interested in tapping new information from humans and to this have developed questionnaires to uncover the chaotic nature of binge eating and non-regulatory reasons for eating in high BMI individuals. My work has suggested several behavioral and physiological parallels between eating for non-metabolic reasons and drug addiction. A central hypothesis in my work is that obesity and eating disorders arise to meet allostatic –not homeostatic – functions. It is hoped that this perspective will yield better drug and non-drug therapies for eating disorders and obesity.
-Behavioral, neurochemical, and genetic markers of “binge-eating resistant” and “binge-eating prone” rats.
-Meal pattern, snacking habits, and hunger/satiety sensations as predictors of BMI: a survey tool to shape behavior into long-term weight loss.
-Biological substrates of the correlation between low social status and obesity.
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