Prof Suzanne Higgs (Professor of Psychobiology of Appetite, Principal Investigator of the EBRG): Suzanne joined the University of Birmingham in 1998. She received her BA in Psychology, Physiology and Philosophy from Oxford University (1992). During her PhD work at the University of Durham (1996) she specialized in psychopharmacology of appetite under the supervision of Steve Cooper. She completed post doctoral work at Oxford University on the neural bases of learning and memory with Nicholas Rawlins and Susan Greenfield and was then appointed to a lectureship in psychology at the University of Birmingham. Suzanne is interested in psychobiological influences on appetite. Her research is particularly concerned with cognitive and social influences on eating behaviour and the potential role of these factors in the development of obesity. The ESRC, BBSRC, Leverhulme Trust, MRC and Alcohol Education Research Council have funded Suzanne’s work.
Dr Maartje Spetter (Research fellow): Maartje joined the EBRG in November 2016. She has a BSc (2005) and MSc (2007) from Maastricht University, in Health Sciences (nowadays Biomedical Sciences), specialising in Metabolism and Nutrition. She completed her PhD at the Nutritional Neuroscience lab at Utrecht University (2012) under supervision of Paul Smeets, in cooperation with Wageningen University focusing on the effects of taste, odour, and flavour perception on food intake and related neural responses (with a graduate exchange at the Neuropsychology and Physiology of Flavor and Feeding group at Yale University, John B. Pierce Laboratory). Additionally, she completed a post-doc with Manfred Hallschmid at the Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Tübingen on oxytocin administration and self-regulation of brain networks in relation to eating behaviour. Maartje’s main focus is the interplay between metabolic signals (e.g. hormones), higher cognitive processes (e.g. inhibition), and food reward processes with a special interest in related neural responses and networks.
Dr Helen Ruddock (Research fellow): Helen joined the University of Birmingham EBRG in March 2018. She has a BSc in Psychology (University of Plymouth, 2006) and MSc in Neuropsychology (University of Bristol, 2010). She completed her PhD in March 2017, under the supervision of Dr Charlotte Hardman at the University of Liverpool. Her PhD focused on identifying the psychological and behavioural characteristics of addiction-like eating. Prior to joining the EBRG, Helen worked with Dr Andy Jones (University of Liverpool) examining the relationship between self-control processes and alcohol consumption. Helen’s current research examines the mechanisms which underlie the social facilitation of eating (i.e. the tendency for people to eat more in social situations).
Leonie Balter (Doctoral researcher): Leonie joined the EBRG in 2015. She has a BSc (Biological Psychology) and MSc (Neuropsychology) from Maastricht University, and an MSc in Nutrition and Health from Wageningen University. As part of her training she conducted several internships in which she looked at the effects of food components on health-related factors such as intestinal barrier function and innate immunity and how reward sensitivity modulates brain reward responses. Within her doctoral research Leonie studies the effects of inflammation on the brain. She investigates states related to low-grade inflammation including obesity, healthy ageing and chronic diseases. Leonie is aiming to combine these lines of research with an experimental model of inflammation, which provides a valuable tool for studying purely inflammation-driven effects. Her PhD-work is cooperation between the University of Birmingham and the University of Amsterdam.
Elizabeth Martin (Doctoral researcher): Elizabeth joined the ERBG in 2017 after finishing her MSc in Psychology and Psychological Research at the University of Birmingham. Her master’s research focused on resting-state functional connectivity, and she now aims to apply this interest in brain imaging and cognitive neuroscience to her PhD research. Elizabeth’s PhD is funded by BBSRC as part of the Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Programme, which, in addition to three years of doctoral research, involves modules in advanced research methods, completing a mini-project at the University of Leicester, and working with her industrial collaborator, P1vital. Her main research interest is ADHD and it’s comorbidity with symptoms of disordered eating behaviour. Her PhD research project is focussed on the range of cognitive and biological processes involved in guiding eating behaviour and how deficits in some of these processes, associated with ADHD, can lead to disordered eating behaviour.
Elizabeth Schneider (Doctoral researcher): Elizabeth joined the group as a doctoral researcher in September 2017. She completed a BSc in Psychology with a minor in Nutrition and an MSc in Clinical Psychology at Eastern Kentucky University, USA. As an undergraduate Elizabeth was a research assistant were she investigated the effects of caffeine on sustained attention, and in addition conducted her own experiments about mindless eating and estimation of food intake. During her Masters ‘degree she examined how subtle changes to a person’s eating environment can affect weight and reduce binge eating in people with disordered eating. She also created a therapy group for college students with disordered eating using integrative therapy techniques. She is currently working on a study which investigates how the fullness of an eating container influences food intake, assisting in fMRI-data collection, and preparing a study for her dissertation were she will study the effects of intranasal insulin on cognitive processes, metabolic processes, and reward values of food . Her future interests include sex hormone imbalances, mindful eating, the effect of unconscious environmental cues and the development of novel interventions.
Madhronica Sardjoe (Intern Master-student): Madhronica is an MSc-student (Neuroscience; Psychopharmacology and Pathophysiology) from the University of Amsterdam. Her previous master`s research focused on the identification of brain regions involved in emotion processing in patients with anorexia nervosa. During her 7 month internship at EBRG she will be investigating the effects of intranasal administration of insulin on neural responses and networks, in relation to food reward, cognitive control, working memory, snack consumption, food and emotion related memory and mood and appetite ratings. After her internship, she will focus on writing a literature review on the effects of a serotonin antagonist on the interaction between metabolic, cognitive and reward processes in appetite.
Vasiliki Kafourou (MIBTP mini-project Doctoral researcher): Vasiliki joined the EBRG as a mini-project researcher in April 2018. She has a BSc in Food Science and Nutrition (University of The Aegean, 2016). For her thesis project she conducted a comparative study of the antioxidant activity of three different extracts of two Artemisia species. As an undergraduate, she has also worked as a Food Scientist & Nutritionist in the Research & Development team of the food company YIOTIS S.A. She has also worked as a Research Assistant in the Chemical Engineering Department at The University of Birmingham (2016), focusing on the encapsulation of microbes and chemical compounds. She is currently doing her PhD, funded by BBSRC as part of the Midlands Integrative Bioscences Training Partnership. In addition to three years of doctoral research, the PhD programme involves modules in advanced research methods, doing an industrial placement and completing a mini-project at the University of Warwick (Development of a cell-on-a-chip platform for precise spatio-temporal control of the micro-environment to study cellular circadian clocks). During her 3-month project in EBRG, she will be working on a study that investigates how learning and memory affect food choices, to help people control their appetite.
Clotilde Baron (Intern Master-Student) Clotilde is an engineering student from the engineering school Agroparistech (Paris Institute of Technology for Life, Food and Environment), where she is specialized in “Engineering of food, biomolecules and energy”. Her previous internship in research was focused on the sensory characterization of innovative products based on vegetable proteins and the establishment of a sensory profile. For a 5 month research internship abroad, Clotilde is conducting a study investigation about the cognitive and memory process, as well as the external opinions’ role on meal and restaurant likings. She will be first testing the influence of external opinions on the appreciation of a meal, and then she will be investigating whether the memory of the given information impacted the global liking of the restaurant.