At the O’BRAIN Lab, we assume that individual weight status is the result of a complex interaction of (at least) these different factors:
- individual behavior (e.g. eating behavior, decision-making)
- characteristics of the environment (e.g. food supply, possibilities for physical activity)
- individual predisposition (such as genetic susceptibility)
The O’BRAIN Lab’s goal is to disentangle these interactions by tackling diverse research questions. For this purpose we draw upon expertise from multiple scientific disciplines such as neurobiology, psychology, cognitive science, mathematics and medicine. This joint effort is made possible through generous funding for two main lines of research:
- Decision-making in Obesity: Neurobiology, Behavior, and Plasticity, a research group within the Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB) AdiposityDiseases
The goal of this research group is to understand maladaptive decision-making in obesity.
Decision-making depends crucially on learned, partly automatic associations between stimuli and their outcomes, the valuation of choice options, as well as the flexibility to adapt behavior to current needs and goals. We investigate differences between groups of lean and obese individuals in several sub-processes of decision-making. The group mainly uses cognitive tasks combined with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate behavior, brain structure and function. Additionally, we use specific olfactory and gustatory stimulation, and recording of eye movements. In addition we examine the influence of modulating factors such as motivation, stress, gender, homeostatic state, genotype and personality traits. Based on the obtained results, intervention studies are planned that we hope will either alter the brain’s endogenous potential for neuroplasticity or target exogenous factors that render decision-making in obesity disadvantageous.
- Neurocognitive Models of Behavioral Control in Obesity – The modulating effects of dynamic changes in central dopaminergic tone, a subproject of the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 1052 “Obesity Mechanisms”
The goal of this project is to understand the interaction of dietary composition, alterations within the dopaminergic system, and the development of obesity.
The neurotransmitter dopamine plays a central role in several cognitive key domains such as (food) motivation, reinforcement learning, and memory. Animal research suggests that dietary intake of fat and sugar impacts on the dopaminergic system. Our recent results point towards (a) prominent alterations in these domains in overweight and obesity and (b) a non-linear relationship between markers of obesity and the central nervous transmission efficacy of dopamine. Within this project, we aim to elucidate the individual contribution of these factors and their effect on brain function and behavior. We will test the effects of pharmacological manipulation to central dopaminergic transmission in human obesity utilizing behavioral testing, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and neurocognitive modeling, the latter providing a direct link of behavioral and neural effects on the individual level. Further, we will investigate the interaction of ‘natural’, i.e. genetic, modulators of DA transmission with obesity- and diet-associated alterations in different brain regions. The results will provide the basis for an extended understanding of obesity and the development of novel therapies.
RESOURCES & INFRASTRUCTURE
Since the O’BRAIN Lab is embedded in Leipzig’s Max Planck Institute for Human Cognition & Brain Science we’re fully equipped – additionally to our own resources – on a variety of methodological devices.
With the help of MRI the O’BRAIN Lab aims to go one step further and explore neural correlates of these obesity-related behavioral differences. All MRI-techniques use strong but harmless magnetic fields to image the human brain. Studies of the O’BRAIN Lab make use of MR-scanners at magnetic field strengths of 3 Tesla and 7 Tesla.
In basic terms, eye tracking is the measurement of eye activity. An eye tracker is a device that uses projection patterns and optical sensors to gather data about eye position, gaze direction or eye movements. It is a technique commonly used in various fields of research, including psychology, biology, neurology and medicine.
Depending on the nature of the experiment, our lab provides a variety of resources to collect data; some information about your person you can enter yourself via questionnaires on the computer. Your data is securely stored on the servers of the Max Planck Institute.
Other sensory methodological resources are our multistimulator, that encapsulates an olfactometer and a gustometer. These two devices allow the inclusion of perceptual experiences like smell and taste into experimental settings. A hand clench dynamometer is an isometric hand grip device that provides direct reading of clench force in kg.
|Yvonne Böttcher||Department of Clinical Molecular Biology||University of Oslo||Oslo||Norway|
|Kai von Klitzing, Sarah Bergmann // Annette Klein||Adipöse Eltern – adipöse Kinder||IFB AdiposityDiseases||Leipzig||Germany|
|Steffi Riedel-Heller||Institute of Social Medicine, Occupational Health and Public Health||IFB AdiposityDiseases||Leipzig||Germany|
|Peter Kovacs||Institut für Sozialmedizin, Arbeitsmedizin und Public Health||IFB Adiposity and diabetes genetics||Leipzig||Germany|
|Arno Villringer||Neurology||Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences||Leipzig||Germany|
|Daniel S. Margulies||Max Planck Research Group for Neuroanatomy & Connectivity||Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences||Leipzig||Germany|
|Jessica Freiherr||Klinik für Diagnostische und Interventionelle Neuroradiologie||RWTH Aachen||Aachen||Germany|
|Sanne De Wit||Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences||University of Amsterdam||Amsterdam||Netherlands|
|Carme Junqué // María Ángeles Jurado // Maite Garolera||Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology||University of Barcelona||Barcelona||Spain|
|Stefan Bode||Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences||University of Melbourne||Melbourne||Australia|
|Vadim Nikulin||Neurology||Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences||Leipzig||Germany|
|Hanneke Den Ouden||Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour||Nijmegen||Netherlands|
|Roshan Cools||Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour||Nijmegen||Netherlands|
|Lorenz Deserno||Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics||University of Leipzig||Leipzig||Germany|
|Wiebke Fenske||Neuroendocrine Obesity Research||IFB AdiposityDiseases||Leipzig||Germany|
PARTNERS & FUNDING
We are grateful for the support and ongoing funding by these partners:
Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
Collaborative Research Centre 1052 “Obesity Mechanisms”
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
University of Leipzig, Faculty of Medicine
Max Planck International Research Network on Aging (MaxNetAging)