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University of Utrecht, Netherlands

Roger Adan 2
Roger Adan

Prof Roger Adan was trained as a molecular neurobiologist and received his PhD in 1992 on the regulation of vasopressin and oxytocin gene expression. Since 2002 he has been the Professor of Molecular Pharmacology. Via his work on melanocortin receptors he became an expert in molecular and neural pathways underlying feeding behavior, obesity and eating disorders. His lab has a strong multidisciplinary character. A variety of strategies (pharmacogenetics, viral vector technology, in vivo electrophysiology, optogenetics and automated behavioral and physiological analysis) is used to unravel mechanism underlying behavior.  The main focus is on feeding, since this is a natural behavior ideally suited to dissect neural circuits that underlie decision making, anxiety, anhedonia, impulsivity and reward seeking. 

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Dr. Geoffrey van der Plasse is an assistant professor at the department of Translational Neuroscience of the University Medical Center (UMC) in Utrecht (Netherlands). He has a background in psychology (MA) and for his dissertation investigated the role of the prefrontal cortex and serotonergic neurotransmission in cognitive flexibility. As a post-doc he worked at the Department of Psychiatry (UMC, Utrecht) where he studied the behavioral effects of deep brain stimulation and investigated the role of hypothalamic neuronal activity during feeding behavior. Currently his research focuses on the interplay between cortical- and hypothalamic pathways in making feeding-related choices. By means of in vivo electrophysiological measurements en optogenetic manipulation of these pathways, he aims to unravel how food-choices are made and to what extent cortical and hypothalamic brain areas mediate the choice between calories and taste.


Louk vandershuren 2
Louk Vanderschuren

Louk J.M.J. Vanderschuren is Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience at Utrecht University. He also holds a position at the University Medical Center Utrecht. His research deals with the neurobiology of social behavior, impulsive behavior, decision making and substance addiction. Research topics include the brain mechanisms underlying loss of control over substance intake in the development of addiction, the neurobehavioral commonalities and differences between substance and food addiction, and the relationship between cognitive impairments and addictive behavior. He investigates how delays, uncertainty and the expectancy of negative consequences modulate food choice, using sophisticated rodent models of decision making and impulse control.

Vanderschuren LJMJ, Everitt BJ (2004) Drug seeking becomes compulsive after prolonged cocaine self-administration. Science 305:1017-1019

Adan RA. Mechanisms underlying current and future anti-obesity drugs. Trends Neurosci. 2013 36:133-40.

Meye FJ, Trezza V, Vanderschuren LJ, Ramakers GM, Adan RA. Neutral antagonism at the cannabinoid 1 receptor: a safer treatment for obesity. Mol Psychiatry. 2013 18:1294-301

van der Plasse G, Merkestein M, Luijendijk MC, van der Roest M, Westenberg HG, Mulder AB, Adan RA. Food cues and ghrelin recruit the same neuronal circuitry. Int J Obes (Lond). 2013 37:1012-9.

van Zessen R, van der Plasse G, Adan RA. Contribution of the mesolimbic dopamine system in mediating the effects of leptin and ghrelin on feeding. Proc Nutr Soc. 2012 71:435-45.

Baarendse PJJ, Winstanley CA, Vanderschuren LJMJ Simultaneous blockade of dopamine and noradrenaline reuptake promotes disadvantageous decision making in a rat gambling task. Psychopharmacology, 2013 225:719-731

de Jong JW, Meijboom KE, Vanderschuren LJMJ, Adan RAH Low control over palatable food intake in rats is associated with habitual behavior and relapse vulnerability: individual differences. PLoS One 2013 8:e74645.

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Paul Smeets 2
Paul Smeets

Dr. Paul Smeets is assistant professor at the Image Sciences institute of the UMC Utrecht and at the Division of Human Nutrition of Wageningen University. He has a background in behavioral biology. His PhD work aimed at finding biomarkers of satiety in the human brain, using functional MRI. The central theme in his research is the decision to eat, which is taken in the brain on the basis of multiple neural as well as hormonal signals. Research topics include the neural correlates of taste, satiety and (un)healthy food choice, gut-brain interactions and effects of personality characteristics on food-related brain responses. He has a keen interest in better explaining variation in food-related brain responses and assoicated eating behaviors by subject characteristics and therefore is a proponent of standardization of measures, datasharing, and meta-analysis. In addition to Nudge-it he is involved in food-related neuroimaging work in two other FP7 projects, Full4Health and I.Family.

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Dr L. N. van der Laan (Nynke) works as a postdoc at the Image Sciences Institute of the UMC Utrecht and has a background in nutrition science and epidemiology. Her PhD work was aimed at establishing the potential of implicit markers (brain activation, visual attention and reaction times) for predicting food choice and gaining more insight into the decision-making processes underlying food choice. To determine the robustness of fMRI results in the food domain and the core brain regions that activate in response to food cues, she performed an ALE meta-analysis. Subsequently, she has investigated the neural background of food choice and psychological determinants underlying food choice in subjects with an explicit goal to watch their weight. Another line of her research focused on the role of visual attention and visual attributes (e.g., packaging cues) in consumer choice in non-weight-concerned subjects. In addition to mainstream mass-univariate analysis techniques she used multivariate pattern analysis, a relatively novel fMRI analysis technique, to predict package-based food choices. Her research interests focus on the processes underlying consumer choice as a whole, and more specifically the factors influencing healthy choices. She likes to work on multidisciplinary topics, combining (consumer-)psychology, biology and neuroscience and to explore the use of novel (analysis) techniques for the study of food choice.

Smeets PA, Charbonnier L, van MF, van der Laan LN, Spetter MS. Food-induced brain responses and eating behaviour. Proc Nutr Soc. 2012. 71:511-520.

van der Laan LN, de Ridder DT, Viergever MA, Smeets PA. The first taste is always with the eyes: a meta-analysis on the neural correlates of processing visual food cues. Neuroimage 2011. 55:296-303.

annemarie van elburg 3
Annemarie van Elburg
Dr Annemarie van Elburg MD PhD, holds a position as child & adolescent psychiatrist at the University Medical Center Utrecht and is medical director of Rintveld, topclinical centre for Eating disorders at Altrecht Mental Health Institute where she runs the teaching and research program. She is also the chairman of the Nederlandse Academie Eetstoornissen, the Dutch sisterhood of the Academy for Eating Disorders and serves on the Advisory Board of the patient organization SABN (Stichting Anorexia Boulimia Nervosa). Memberships further include the Commissie Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek of the NVvP, the Eating Disorder Research Society, the Academy of Eating Disorders and the VKJP, specialist membership.

From the time of her PhD project on psychoneuroendocinological aspects of anorexia nervosa, a longitudinal study of predictors of recovery, she has been interested in research bridging the gap between experimental research and clinical practice, aiming to improve insight in and treatment outcome for eating disorder patients. Apart from being involved in phenotyping and genetics research in eating disorder patients she has conducted a ten year follow up study of her PhD project, in which biological predictors at the time of admission and the first year of treatment will be studied again.

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