Disordered Behavioral Processes and Diet-Induced Obesity
Kimberly Kirkpatrick (Kansas State University)
Biography:Dr. Kimberly Kirkpatrick is a University Distinguished Professor of Psychological Sciences at Kansas State University. She directs the Reward, Timing, and Decision laboratory which is funded by a $1.9M grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health. She also directs the Cognitive and Neurobiological Approaches to Plasticity (CNAP) Center of Biomedical Research Excellence which was founded in 2017 through a $10.6M grant from the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences. Kirkpatrick received the Kansas State Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award in 2018 and became a University Distinguished Professor in 2019. She currently serves on the ABAI Science Board.
Dr. Kirkpatrick studies everyday choices which can lead to long-term health problems such as obesity, substance abuse, and other impulse control disorders. She has found that diets high in processed sugar and saturated fats can undermine self-control and lead individuals to develop a pattern of problematic daily choices, known as impulsive choices. She has also developed interventions to promote self-control as a treatment for impulsive choices, which is the topic of her current R01 grant.
Kirkpatrick graduated with a bachelor’s in Psychology from Iowa State University. She completed her PhD at the University of Iowa in Psychology with a focus on Behavioral Neuroscience and then subsequently completed her post-doctoral training at Brown University. She started her career as a faculty member at the University of York (UK) before joining the faculty at Kansas State in 2008.
Abstract: No one chooses to become obese, yet obesity rates have risen steadily over the past 40 years and obesity is now one of the most widespread behavioral diseases. Obesity does not emerge from any one choice, but from the accumulation of many poor dietary and lifestyle choices. Many everyday choices can be impulsive choices, such as choosing to eat convenient fast-food items instead of taking the time to prepare a healthy meal. Research with rodent pre-clinical models has found that a diet high in processed saturated fat and/or sugar increased impulsive choices, impaired temporal discrimination, altered food reward value, and modified food choice and consumption behaviors. Dietary schedules that may simulate food insecurity, such as intermittent access to fat and sugar, also increased impulsive choices and altered food reward value. This suggests that an HF diet can impair self-control and related behavioral processes that are needed to avoid future intake of unhealthful foods, thus leading to a vicious cycle that may promote diet-induced obesity. The rodent model controls for dietary history so that specific causal mechanisms can be identified. Research pinpointing core behavioral mechanisms of diet-induced obesity can supply important insights for guiding the development of future obesity treatments.