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Research

Karolien van den Akker

Position
Postdoctoral researcher

E-mail
karolien.vandenakker@maastrichtuniversity.nl

Themes

  • - Craving
  • - Learning/conditioning processes
  • - Obesity
  • - Weight loss & dieting

Research

I do research on learning processes that are involved in eating behaviour. For instance, when a person repeatedly consumed a piece of chocolate in the evening, “evening time” can become a predictor for intake. Subsequently, the body prepares itself for chocolate consumption and the person experiences a strong desire to consume chocolate. One can imagine that such reactions can make it difficult for a person to abstain from consuming palatable foods. However, because these reactions have once been learned, it should be possible to “unlearn” them.

I am primarily interested in the relationships between conditioning processes and (un)successful dieting attempts. I try to answer questions such as: how do learned eating desires develop and are some individuals more prone to developing conditioned eating desires? What is the best way to tackle these eating desires? How can we make dieting attempts more successful? For instance, is it better to occasionally consume palatable foods during a diet, or to abstain completely? For my studies I have used Virtual Reality technology and psychophysiological measures.

Teaching

I am course coordinator of the courses Psychology of Eating (University College Venlo) and Eating Behaviours (Maastricht University). I have tutored various courses at FPN, UCM, and UCV (Eating Disorders, Eating Behaviours, Research: How to do it, Health Psychology, Bad Habits, Social Psychology, Consciousness, Skills IV: Academic writing, Introduction to Psychology, Psychology of Eating). I also supervise research projects and theses of bachelor and master students (FPN and FHML) and I regularly give lectures on different topics in bachelor and master courses at FPN and UCV (e.g., homeostasis, learning and memory, personality and individual differences, appetitive conditioning, habit learning). Finally, I give lectures for primary school children (KidzCollege).

I like to supervise enthusiastic students who would like to write a thesis or do research on obesity, conditioning/learning processes, dieting, habitual eating, cue reactivity or related subjects.

Publications

van den Akker, K., Bongers, P., & Jansen (in revision). Validation of prospective portion size and latency to eat as behavioural measures of reactivity to snack foods. Appetite.

van den Akker, K., Havermans, R.C., & Jansen, A. (in revision). Appetitive conditioning to specific times of day. Appetite.

van den Akker, K., Nederkoorn, C., & Jansen, A. (in revision). Electrodermal responses in appetitive conditioning are sensitive to contingency instruction ambiguity. International Journal of Psychophysiology.

van den Akker, K., Schyns, G.L.T., & Jansen, A. (in revision). Appetitive learning deficits in overweight and obese women. Behaviour Research and Therapy.

van den Akker, K., K., Schyns, G.L.T., & Jansen, A. (2016). Enhancing inhibitory learning to reduce overeating: design and rationale of a cue exposure therapy trial in overweight and obese women. Contemporary Clinical Trials, 49, 85-91.

van den Akker, K., K., van den Broek, M., Havermans, R.C., & Jansen, A. (2016). Violation of eating expectancies does not reduce conditioned desires for chocolate. Appetite, 100, 10-17.

Jansen, A., Schyns, G.L.T., Bongers, P., & van den Akker, K. (2016). From lab to clinic: extinction of cued craving to reduce overeating. Physiology & Behavior, 162, 174-180.

Vervoort, L., van den Akker, K., Schyns, G.L.T., Kakoschke, N., Kemps, E., & Braet, C. (2016). Automatic processes in eating behaviour: understanding and overcoming food cue reactivity. In R.G. Menzies, M. Kyrios, & N. Kazantkis (Eds.), Innovations and Future Directions in the Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. Australian Academic Press.

Vervoort, L., Vandeweghe, L., van den Akker, K., Jonker, N., Braet, C., Kemps, E. (2016). Food: Treat or Threat or Treatment? Rewards and punishment in eating behaviour and interventions to change them. In R.G. Menzies, M. Kyrios, & N. Kazantkis (Eds.), Innovations and Future Directions in the Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. Australian Academic Press.

Bongers, P., & van den Akker, K. (2015). Deskundigen in het voedseldoolhof. Bespreking van ‘Het Voedsellabyrint’ van J. Seidell en J. Halberstadt en ‘Overgewicht en gezondheid’ van E. Van Thiel. De Psycholoog, 50, 21-23.

van den Akker, K., Havermans, R. C., & Jansen, A. (2015). Effects of occasional reinforced trials during extinction on the reacquisition of conditioned responses to food cues. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 48, 50-58.

Bongers, P., van den Akker, K., Havermans, R.C., Jansen, A. (2015). Emotional eating and Pavlovian learning: does negative mood facilitate appetitive conditioning? Appetite, 89, 226-236.

van den Akker, K., Stewart, K., Antoniou, E.E., Palmberg, A. & Jansen, A. (2014). Food cue reactivity, obesity, and impulsivity: are they associated? Current Addiction Reports, 1, 301-308.

van den Akker, K., Havermans, R. C., Bouton , M. E., & Jansen, A. (2014). How partial reinforcement of food cues affects the extinction and reacquisition of appetitive responses. A new model for dieting success? Appetite, 81, 242-252.

van den Akker, K. (2014). Pavlov en de zoetstofmythe. De Psycholoog, 49, 12-19.

van den Akker, K., Jansen, A., Frentz, F., & Havermans, R. C. (2013). Impulsivity makes more susceptible to overeating after contextual appetitive conditioning. Appetite, 70, 73-80.

Havermans, R. C., & van den Akker, K. (2013). Odysseus in luilekkerland. Bespreking van ‘Eet mij: de psychologie van eten, diëten en teveel eten’ van A. ten Broeke & R. Veldhuizen. De Psycholoog, 48, 25-26.

van den Akker, K., & Jansen, A. (2012). Eten uit gewoonte: hoe zit dat precies? Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Voeding en Dietetiek, 67, 26-28.

Coelho, J., van den Akker, K., Nederkoorn, C., & Jansen, A. (2011). Pre-exposure to high- versus low-caloric foods: effects on children’s subsequent fruit intake. Eating Behaviors, 13, 71-73.