February 28, 2008
Contact: Caroline Jenkins Hanna
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—Amherst College’s J.P. Baird, professor of psychology in the school’s neuroscience program, has been awarded a three-year, $237,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The funding will support Baird’s studies of how the brain regulates food intake.
The grant from the NIH will enable Baird and his team of undergraduate assistants to continue their work exploring the role that certain neurochemicals in a part of the brain called the parabrachial nucleus play in feeding control. According to Baird, previous research has shown that neuropeptides, or compounds in the brain made up of two or more amino acids, influence food intake and metabolism, and his group will explore how three particular neuropeptides impact the eating habits and satiety responses of rats in his lab. Because the neuropeptides his team are investigating have been implicated in a number of common food-related disorders, Baird hopes the group’s findings may one day contribute to a better understanding of many such conditions, including obesity, anorexia, bulimia and diabetes.
“An earlier stage of this study received a grant from the NIH three years ago, so I’m thrilled that the agency considered the project worthy of their continued support based on the findings we have obtained here at Amherst,” said Baird. “While the funding will subsidize the research component first and foremost, it will also make it possible for me to continue to bring some of the undergraduate students who collaborate on the research to national research conferences so that they can showcase their work and see how exciting and rewarding life as a professional scientist can be.”
Baird received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and earned a master’s and doctorate in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. He also completed post doctoral work in sensory neurophysiology at the Ohio State University. He joined the Amherst faculty in 2002.
According to its Web site, the NIH includes 27 institutes and centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.