This research area within the Division of Human Nutrition focusses on elucidating how the interactions between food, gut and brain signals shape eating behaviour. We study the physiological, psychological and neural mechanisms underlying eating decisions with a particular focus on sensory (odour, taste, texture) and metabolic (nutrients, hormones) signals.
Curbing obesity by decreasing energy intake and promoting healthier eating is a great challenge. We study the interactions between sensory signals, oral and gastric processing and metabolic consequences, all of which are integrated in the brain to drive food reward and eating decisions. One topic is energy sensing in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract, including how sensory cues are coupled with metabolic consequences. A related topic concerns anticipatory physiological responses to sensory cues. We investigate these so-called cephalic phase responses by combining peripheral physiological measures of salivation, gastric volume and hormones with autonomous nervous system measures and functional neuroimaging (EEG, fMRI). This theme includes the role of the endocannabinoid system in food reward.