Interventions to address reward-seeking behaviors among young adults

Our current work involves an NIH-funded, 5-year cluster-randomized trial designed to test the effects of administering a behavioral activation intervention in a semester-long freshman oritentation seminar on multiple clinical outcomes. In the lab, we also study 1) the impact of reinforcement-seeking behaviors, primarily alcohol use and reward-driven eating, and health outcomes among young adults and 2) underlying motivational mechanisms that drive multiple reward-seeking behaviors.   

Our recently published article on motives associated with drinking and binge eating can be found here:


Defining hyper-palatable foods quantitatively and determining their impacts on eating behavior and health

Our recent work has focused on developing a data-driven, quantitative definintion of hyper-palatable foods, and applying this definition to the USDA food system database. Our work won an award for top paper at the Obesity Society Annual Meeting in 2019, was featured in Obesity (November 2019 issue), and has been covered by various media including Newsweek, Forbes, and NPR's Central Standard out of Kansas City. The paper can be found here:

Our next steps for this work include testing the predictive validity of the definnition for relevant eating constructs (overeating, binge eating), and obesity-related outcomes. We are also working to quantify the prevalence of hyper-palatable foods internationally, to compare with our findings from the US food system. 


Assessing alcohol use with new mobile photography methodology

Smartphone applications have widespread utility for collecting real-time information about eating and drinking behavior. We are developing new methods for assessing alcohol use and in real time using a mobile-photography app, in collaboration with researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. This technology has the ability to quantify caloric and nutrition contents of alcoholic beverages, and relies on photos to report the details, removing the need for participants to self-report their intake, which can be prone to biases.

We recently presented findings from a pilot study at the Research Society on Alcoholism:

Our published article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research mHealth & uHealth can be found here:


What’s in a binge? Examining contents of binge eating and restricting episodes among individuals with eating disorders

The lab is currently conducting a large-scale data analysis project designed to examine the qualities of foods consumed during objective binge eating episodes and restricting episodes among participants diagnosed with a range of eating disorders. This project is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Kelsie Forbush’s CARE Lab. We will examine the contents of binge episodes, with particular attention to highly palatable foods, and caloric and nutrition contents of binge eating episodes, as well as their relationships with clinical outcomes.

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