Topics

In the Eating Behavior Laboratory, we are interested in a variety of aspects related to eating- and weight-regulation. These include, for example, dispositional eating styles such as emotional eating and stress-related eating. Emotional eating refers to increased or decreased food intake in response to positive or negative emotions. Similarly, stress-related eating refers to increased or decreased food intake in response to stress. Another key concept in our research is food craving, which can be defined as an intense desire to consume a specific food. Food craving can be conceptualized as both a state (i.e., current food craving) and a trait (i.e., frequency of food craving experiences). As chocolate is one of the most often craved foods in Western societies, our studies revolve around chocolate craving in particular.

In addition to these basic eating-related behaviors and concepts, we are also interested in clinically-relevant conditions such as eating disorders and obesity. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder marked by underweight and restrictive eating. Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder marked by recurrent binge eating episodes with subsequent compensatory behaviors such as vomiting. Similarly, binge eating disorder is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent binge eating episodes as well, but without subsequent compensatory behaviors. Obesity is a physical condition with excessive fat accumulation and is defined as a body mass index of >= 30 kg/m².

 

Methods

We investigate the above-mentioned topics with a range of different methods, which include psychophysiological measures, computerized behavioral tasks, and ambulatory assessment.

Examples for psychophysiological measures used in our laboratory are electroencephalography (EEG), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). While EEG and fMRI can be used for measuring brain activity, for example, in response to food-cues, tDCS can be used for altering brain activity, which, subsequently, may change food craving or may even influence food choices.

Examples for behavioral tasks used in our laboratory are idiosyncratic emotion induction, food decision paradigms, and approach-avoidance tasks. These paradigms allow for the assessment of food choices and processing of food-cues under certain emotional states and approach or avoidance tendencies towards food stimuli.


An important part of our methodological spectrum is ambulatory assessment (or ecological momentary assessment). With this method, data are collected via smartphones in daily routine and, thus, eating behavior can be studied under real-life conditions.