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UB's Center for Ingestive Behavior Research awards its first pilot grants


Mon, Dec 16th 2019 11:50 am

By the University at Buffalo

The University at Buffalo Center for Ingestive Behavior Research (CIBR) has awarded its first series of pilot grants.

The grants’ seed money provides applicants with critical funding that makes external proposals more robust. Before the center’s founding earlier this year, major grant applications might have been at risk of rejection because they lacked preliminary data, for instance. Now they gain competitive footing by responding to what funding agencies might otherwise have perceived as a shortcoming.

“This is a major part of what the center was formed to do,” said CIBR Director Derek Daniels, a professor of psychology in UB’s College of Arts and Sciences. “These grants will support ingestive behavior scientists at UB by helping them get that one last experiment that can put a big grant application over the top for funding.”

Daniels said UB is already gaining recognition as a premier research center for ingestive behavior, with a core group of researchers that combines the expertise of faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, School of Nursing, Graduate School of Education and School of Public Health and Health Professions.

“Our community is large and growing, and people at other institutes are watching,” he said. “Having the center helps secure our presence in the field.”

Ingestive behavior is a fascinating research discipline that affects everyone.

Everyone eats and drinks.

But why and how much are we eating and drinking? Why are we making the choices that determine these outcomes? These are questions ingestive behavior research tries to answer. But it’s not to be confused with nutrition.

Nutrition research focuses on the chemical composition of food and how it affects our bodies; ingestive behavior research is about the actual act of deciding what to eat and drink. Nutrition researchers might look at the foods people eat when they’re hungry, but ingestive behavior researchers look at what drives hunger.

Think of nutrition as “what” and ingestive behavior as “why.”

Many health conditions, from diabetes to cardiovascular disease, have diet as their underlying cause related to either over- or under-consumption of food and fluid.

“The three projects we’ve selected for pilot grants all have the broader aim of understanding how obesity develops and what systems might be targeted to treat it,” Daniels said.

Greg Loney, an assistant professor in the department of psychology, will look at the brain’s insular cortex to establish how its dysfunction impairs the ability to track the satiety signals that arise from eating.

Kathryn Medler, an associate professor in the department of biological sciences, and Ann Marie Torregrossa, an assistant professor in the department of psychology, have previously shown that diet-induced obesity inhibits taste responses. Their goal is to identify how excess weight and diet each individually affect the properties of taste cells.

Elizabeth G. Mietlicki-Baase, an assistant professor of exercise and nutrition sciences in the School of Public Health and Health Professions, will look at the peptide hormone amylin, which is thought to be a promising target for obesity, and how it taps into reward processing.

“It’s exciting that we have a mechanism with the center for promoting ingestive behavior research inside and outside the university,” Daniels said. “Watching the support that the deans and department chairs have put into the center, and seeing it turn us into one of the best places in the world to be a scientist studying eating and drinking, is really special.”

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