Obesity is a complex state characterized by behaviors including enhanced food motivation leading to chronic weight gain, and associated with neuronal adaptations in brain circuits that mediate food-seeking behaviors. Yet while we have some knowledge about the structural and functional synaptic changes that occur with diet-induced obesity, we do not yet know how these alterations persist, nor how they explicitly drive chronic increases in feeding and weight gain. Many obesity studies focus on a snapshot in time, which does little to inform the persistent changes likely fomenting in these circuits as weights fluctuate. Our lab probes brain circuits over time, on a dynamic experimental platform of weight gain and loss, to reveal if and how neural circuits that reinforce feeding are strengthened in obesity. We use molecular, circuit, and systems-level techniques to study the ways in which obesity and exposure to obesogenic diets change physiology and behavior in lasting ways, and to investigate how these processes are influenced by environmental factors.
The lab is supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).