Human Ingestive Behaviour (Kissileff) Laboratory

Metabolic and physiological effects on appetite regulation

The neuro-chemical and learnt processes that determine liking for particular foods/tastes (palatability, hedonics and reward). How are these preferences acquired and what are their neuro-chemical basis?

The role of peripheral factors such as satiety peptides in the within-meal process of satiation (which eventually terminates consumption and leads to satiety). What pre-and post-ingestive factors stimulate the release of these factors? Where and how are they detected in the brain or the periphery? Are there deficits in these processes which may explain differences in the microstructure of within-meal feeding behaviour observed in binge eaters and/or the obese?

The effect of learning, and post-ingestive consequences of food intake, on food preference and actual food choice. How does the physiological impact of food determine future food choices?

Neural and neuropeptide effects on human feeding

The human neuro-anatomy of taste, learnt preference, hunger, satiation and satiety. What areas of the human brain (cortical and sub-cortical locations) are associated with unconscious processes, and conscious experiences of these factors controlling food intake?

The role of central factors such as monoamines and neuro-peptides in the expression of appetite (hunger and satiety) and the maintenance of energy balance across the day. How do fluctuations in the levels of these neuro-chemicals in the limbic and brain stem areas affect food intake, meal initiation and meal termination? How does energy intake and energy balance status affect the endogenous turnover of these factors?

Clinical evaluation of appetite and drug development

We collaborate in phase 1 and 2 clinical trials with a number of partners to assess potential anti-obesity compounds acting on endogenous appetite regulation systems. How do these compounds affect daily food intake at meals and snacks (energy and macronutrient content), food choice, feelings of hunger and the speed of onset of satiety?

The effect of energy density and macronutrient content of foods on subjective feeling of appetite and on energy balance (i.e. what foods are most/least likely to lead to over consumption, and what mechanisms underlie any such effect?). What foods are most / least likely to lead to obesity?

The role of psychological factors (self-esteem, personality traits/states, mood, stress and/or dietary restraint) that lead to dis-inhibition and subsequent over-consumption. What factors lead to diet breaking and/or binge eating?

The clinical assessment of appetite stimulatory factors for potential use in treating cachexia (phase 1 studies). Appetite stimulatory drugs may have potential benefit in reversing the loss in lean body mass associated with chronic disease.

Functional foods and scientific substantiation of EFSA health claims

Having the expertise and facilities to consider the interplay between physiological and psychological influences on appetite control we are ideally placed to provide scientific substantiation of European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) article 13.5 health claims focusing on functional foods for appetite control, glycaemic control, gut health and function, weight management, cognition and mood.

How does chronic use of these foods affect food intake and appetite expression? Can functional foods aid compliance with weight loss efforts? Do functional foods assist with hunger management and subsequently benefit mood and cognition? Do functional foods impact on gastric emptying rate or gut transit time? Can functional foods reduce post-prandial glycaemic responses (without disproportionately increasing post-prandial insulinaemic responses)?

Food marketing to children

Quantifying the extent and nature of food marketing children are exposed to through various media (TV, internet including ‘advergaming’, social media, outdoor, point of sale, packaging, event sponsorship) and the effect it has on their food preferences and consumption.

How much food advertising do children see and for what products? How much attention do they pay to it? How do they respond, and does this differ according to their weight status and their level of previous experience with advertising? How does advertising have a persuasive effect? What is the contribution from various elements of marketing practice, e.g. celebrity endorsement, use of promotional characters, brand imagery?

Learned and cognitive influences on appetite and food intake

Investigating the psychological processes that contribute to appetite control, including the role of expectations, attention and memory. Why do some people show an “attentional bias” towards food cues and does this result in over-eating? How does memory for recent eating influence our food choice and consumption? How does prior learning experience shape our beliefs and expectations about the post-ingestive effects of consuming foods?  

What is food reward and how do we measure it? What are the psychological (liking and wanting), neurobiological and genetic determinants of food reward in humans. How does food reward relate to food intake and obesity? 

Why are certain foods so difficult to resist for certain individuals and in particular circumstances? Can over-eating be considered an addiction? Is there any overlap with alcohol and drug addiction?

Maternal Feeding Practices

Examining how early exposure to flavours (feeding method, repetition, timing) affect food preferences and consumption at weaning.

How do maternal feeding practices (breast-feeding or formula feeding) influence infant food preferences? Can the diet consumed by mothers during pregnancy and lactation produce lasting changes in children’s dietary habits? How does the nature of the family food environment contribute to the establishment of healthy eating practices?

Social influences on eating

How do the people around us influence our decisions about what and how much to eat or drink? We conduct experimental studies to assess these questions and test novel ways to promote changes to dietary behaviour and uptake of healthier habits.

Perceptions of Obesity

Over the last 30 years there has been a dramatic increase in the prevalence of adiposity. What effect has this had on how we perceive overweight people? And how do such perceptions influence health and weight management behaviours?