Junior research group receives an award from the Faculty of Medicine

On the 25th of January, the Faculty of Medicine hosted its annual research colloquium showcasing current projects and emerging initiatives. And the faculty had good reason to celebrate the recent success of three approved applications for research clusters. These clusters are not only vital for an extension of the university’s “excellence” status; they will shape the focus of research on key challenges such as personalized medicine for the next decade. Arguably, there is a lot that we can learn from other disciplines in medicine about individualizing predictions for the treatment of mental disorders and it will be an exciting endeavor for us to embark on.

As part of the annual research colloquium, all intramurally funded research projects present the results of their ongoing efforts to show where they are heading and to facilitate the exchange across departments. After establishing the junior research group in 2017, this year was our first turn to present. And we also had good reason to celebrate as our work “Going with your gut: vagal nerve stimulation modulates effort” resonated well with the reviewers and received a poster award. Congratulations to everyone who made it happen. Watch this space for the upcoming preprints.

Happy faces after the award was announced.

Science out in the open

~10min read

Open Science! Chances are, you’ve already stumbled upon this term. But isn’t science always open by design because we publish our results, you might wonder. Unfortunately, it is not as open as it should be to allow for quality control measures. So let’s first have a look at the scientific process itself to see where it is open by default and where not.

Is openness an inherent part of the scientific process?

Scientist or not; everyone uses the scientific method to solve everyday problems. Why does your toast land on the buttered side when accidentally thrown off the table? Which apple do you pick from the pile in the supermarket? In such cases, you’ve made an observation or asked a question and most likely also formulated a hypothesis. For example, you may pick an apple that is firm, red and without any brown spots, because you act on the hypothesis that these characteristics signal good taste.

Continue reading “Science out in the open”

Too much or too little reward from eating: why do we overeat?

~5min read

Many things in life are simple to describe, yet difficult to understand. One such obvious fact is that if one consumes more calories than one expends, this will eventually lead to weight gain and, ultimately, overweight and obesity. But what causes the excess in consumption that has propelled the surge in obesity in the past decades?

Intuitively, it is tempting to assume that overeating is driven by a greater pleasure derived from eating. To examine the cause for overindulgence, we often present food cues and track how the brain evaluates them. Such cues range from pictures of palatable food to simple geometric shapes predicting the delivery of chocolate milkshake in the scanner. In line with the “reward surfeit” idea, many studies have observed an increased response to food cues in the brain’s reward circuit in overweight and obese individuals. This is then interpreted as an increased desire elicited by the prospect of food. Continue reading “Too much or too little reward from eating: why do we overeat?”