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Welcome to the website of the Nutritional Neuroscience Laboratory

The Nutritional Neuroscience lab studies the neural correlates of taste, satiety and (unhealthy) food choice, gut-brain interactions, effects of personality characteristics on food-induced brain responses and functional neuroimaging in anorexia nervosa. 

NOTICE: This website will be discontinued by the end of 2021. Resources can still be found at the OSF project pages of Paul Smeets.

NCU workshop

On the 8th of October the NCU workshop 'A Translational Approach to Eating Disorders' will take place in Utrecht.  

Organisation: Lot Sternheim, Annemarie van Elburg, Roger Adan and Paul Smeets. 

Date: Thursday October 8th 2015
Location: UMC Utrecht, Auditorum Q.01.226, Utrecht
Costs: € 20,-, students pay € 10,- and should mention this with registration
Registration: Send an e-mail to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Payment in cash only
Limited seating, please register before September 15th 2015

Eating disorders, especially anorexia nervosa (AN), are complex somatic/neuro-psychiatric disorders, as they are usually an interplay between biological, psycho-social and environmental factors (Treasure & Schmidt, 2013). Traditional research on eating disorder uses either a psychological approach and focuses on eating-disordered cognitions and behaviors, for example emotions in relationship to (not-) eating, or a biological approach: e.g. aimed at changes in hormones, temperature, and brain functioning related to (not-) eating. Although cognitive-behavioral treatments have shown fairly reasonable results for bulimia nervosa (BN), this picture becomes much bleaker when we turn the camera to AN, where there are no evidence based psychological interventions besides family therapy in youngsters. Many sufferers do not recover, and relapse rates are high (Keel & Brown, 2010).

In the last decade the perspective on eating disorders is shifting to a much more psychobiologically integrated approach (Herpertz-Dahlmann, 2011). In fact, some researchers have proposed purely neurobiological models of eating disorders and others even suggest ED’s should be classified as brain disorders. Subsequently, there is an exponential growth of studies on brain network circuits in the field of eating disorders and our knowledge is steeply increasing. Strangely however, these results hardly ever reach clinical practice or result in new treatment methods and those professionals working with ED patients on a daily basis usually have no idea about potentially crucial brain-related processes in ED. For example, animal research highlights the importance of the reward system in food intake; and (imaging) studies with ED-patients have shown (albeit inconsistent) abnormalities in this area (Adan & Kaye, 2011). This may explain certain ED behaviors, such as food restriction or binges, linked with affective responses such as fear or control-issues, but it has not been translated into treatment. 

Seeing that understanding and treating ED’s requires integration of neurobiological, psychological and clinical knowledge, future research should increasingly adopt this translational approach. We aim to take the next step in the development of a research network on ED that includes brain researchers, psychologists and ED professionals, who can develop translational ED models and –essential – test these models by combining their expertise and resources.


09:30-10:00 Coffee and registration
10:00-10:15 Welcome - Prof. Annemarie van Elburg
10:15-10:45 Translational research and clinical practice in eating disorders - prof. Annemarie van Elburg, Faculty of Social Sciences of Utrecht University, Altrecht Mental Health Institute
10:45-11:30 Reward processes in underweight and overweight individuals (including (hyper) activity) - dr. Katrin Gie, Medical University Hospital Tübingen, dep. of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy
11:30-12:00 Can neural profiling improve eating disorder treatment? - dr. Paul Smeets, University Medical Center Utrecht, Image Sciences Institute
12:00-13:00 Lunch
13:00-13:45 Neuromodulation Treatments - prof. dr. Ulrike Schmidt, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London
13:45-14:30 Reward processing and cognitive control in AN - prof. dr. med. Stefan Ehrlich, Translational Developmental Neuroscience, Dresden University, Dep. Of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
14:30-15:00 Coffee break
15:00-15:45 From basic research to clinical trials and vice versa - the benefit of looking both ways - prof. dr. med. Beate Herpertz-Dahlmann, dep. of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy RWTH Aachen University
15:45-16:30 Neurodevelopmental models, genetics and neurocognition - dr. Angela Favaro, dep. Of Neurosciences, University of Padova
16:30-17:00 Unraveling the neural circuitry of eating disorders using animal models - prof. dr. Roger Adan, dep. Neuroscience and Pharmacology, University Medical Center Utrecht, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience
17:00-17:30 General discussion
17:30 Drinks


The Nutritional Neuroscience Lab is affiliated with the Image Sciences Institute of the UMC Utrecht, The Netherlands.