This NIDDK Mentored Research Scientist Development Award application is aimed at initiating a program of research which investigates the influence of early infant feeding interactions on the regulation of food intake and weight status during the first year of life. The candidate, Dr. Jennifer Fisher, has completed close to 10 years of graduate and post-graduate training under the supervision of Dr. Leann Birch, who is internationally recognized as a leading expert on the behavioral and environmental determinants of food acceptance patterns in young children. To date, Dr. Fisher's research has focused both on parents' own eating behaviors as well as their use of controlling child feeding practices as contributing factors to the development of overeating and overweight in young children. As a newly independent researcher, Dr. Fisher's long-term goals are to expand her research expertise by considering how early feeding interactions involving infant hunger and fullness cues may affect the regulation of food intake and growth during the first years of life. Her immediate goals are to use the Mentored Research Scientist Development Award (MRSDA) to acquire training and to develop measures that will enable her to begin to establish an independent program of research in this area. The MRSDA will allow her to address these goals by using the first year to develop and pilot test measures of maternal-infant feeding interactions and a measure of infant regulation of intake. The second and third year of the funding period will be used to prospectively follow infants from 3 mo to 12 mo of age in a study that evaluates maternal insensitivity to infant hunger and fullness cues as a predictor of poor food intake regulation and higher weight status among infants. The proposed work will be conducted at the USDA Children's Nutrition Research, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Texas. The USDA Children's Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine houses more than 50 inter-disciplinary researchers and has a long established tradition of research on infant development and growth. This institutional environment will lend tremendous support to the application by providing the necessary facilities and equipment to conduct research on infant feeding and growth. The career development of the candidate will be supported through informal and structured interactions with faculty who have expertise in the area of infant feeding, development, energy expenditure, and growth. The candidate will be mentored by Dr. Nancy Butte, who has expertise in the area of infant energy expenditure and growth; Dr. Dennis Bier, a pediatric endocrinologist who has extensive leadership experience in the field of nutrition; and Dr. Judy Hopkinson, who has worked extensively on lactation and infant feeding. The MRSDA will provide critical support of the candidate's career development plan by providing training in the measurement of infant growth and body composition, developmental changes in infant feeding capabilities and infant nutrition, and by providing an appreciation of the changing nature of mother-infant feeding interactions during infancy.
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