- - Binge Eating Disorder
- - Brain processes
- - Learning/conditioning processes
- - Reward value of eating
How does stress influence eating behaviour and binge eating disorder? That is the central question in my project. Perhaps you find yourself being fresh out of crisps near the beginning of a movie. Or possibly your groceries are quite a bit more unhealthy if you experience a lot of stress at home or at work. That is why I’m particularly interested in why it is so difficult to stop eating, and the role of stress in this process.
Eating behaviour is complex, which is why there are multiple models that try to explain it. My project explores the role of operant conditioning that classifies behaviour in habitual and goal-directed. The identifying characteristic of habitual behaviour is that there is a coupling between stimulus and response. Goal-directed behaviour on the other hand, is classified by a prediction, a coupling between response and outcome. Both are associated with distinct brain areas. The neurotransmitters and hormones that are being secreted in stressful situations influence the balance between these brain areas and increase the chance of executing habitual behaviour. One important facet of this type of behaviour is that the reward becomes inconsequential (and thus people will keep on eating even if they don’t feel hungry). Using MRI I investigate the activation (fMRI) and the underlying structure (structural and DWI) associated with these processes.
Before I started my PhD-project in October 2016, I completed the bachelor Psychology and the research master Cognitive Neuroscience at the Radboud University Nijmegen. I combined these with the premaster Philosophy and the master Analytical Philosophy. During the research master Cognitive Neuroscience looked at the role of the lateral frontal (FPl) in relational thinking between modalities, and the difference in non-human primates and humans. My master Analytical Philosophy was focussed on evolutionary philosophy.