Fighting Obesity by Studying the Brain
Janurary 25, 2011
Obesity is an epidemic that ravages individuals and weighs upon society as well. At Amherst College, John-Paul Baird, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, has spent the last year eight years exploring neural networks and brain chemicals that impact eating behavior. These chemicals, called neuropeptides, influence feelings of hunger and fullness, or satiety. Professor Baird's lab is working to characterize how some of these neuropeptides function in certain areas of the brain to influence food intake. The longer-term goal of basic research such as this is to identify potential therapeutic compounds that could contribute to the treatment of obesity and other eating- and metabolic-related disorders.
In this video, Professor Baird describes his research and explains how undergraduate students become his research collaborators, while Shirui Chen ’12 describes how he’s benefitted from the opportunity of working alongside a leading obesity researcher.
“In the Lab: Studying Slime Mold Yields Insight into Cellular Behavior”—Biology professor David Ratner and several of his students examine how Dictyostelium discoideum—a cellular slime mold—behaves. The bigger goal is to explore the research frontiers of gene expression and protein degradation.
“In the Lab: Tracking Air Pollution in the Pioneer Valley”—Karena McKinney, two faculty colleagues and several undergraduate researchers set out this past summer to learn how a nearby coal-fired power plant is affecting mercury levels in the environment.