Dr. Shapiro is an excellent candidate for the NIDDK Mentored Research Scientist Development Award. Currently, she is transitioning from a postdoctoral research position in the NIMH-funded T32 program for Developmental Psychobiology, Psychopathology and Behavior (MH015442-39A1) to faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado. She has a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, a Doctorate in Epidemiology, and an impressive publication and funding record. The proposed research plan has two specific aims: 1) Determine the extent to which an energy surplus stimulus alters neuronal response within, and functional connectivity between homeostatic and non-homeostatic brain regions in adolescents with and without obesity; and 2) Determine the degree to which neuronal connectivity between homeostatic and non-homeostatic brain regions is associated with disinhibited eating behaviors among adolescents with and without obesity. Dr. Shapiro has designed an innovative study to address these aims that will employ functional neuroimaging methodology (Aim 1) and a directly observed measure of disinhibited eating behavior (Aim 2). She will test the overarching hypothesis that altered brain function in and between homeostatic and non-homeostatic brain systems underlie disinhibited eating behaviors in adolescents, and that this is most pronounced in adolescents with obesity. The career development plan supports the research aims and Dr. Shapiro?s transition to independence with training in 1) Functional neuroimaging methodology and analysis; and 2) Eating behaviors in youth: theory, measurement and interpretation. Her mentors, Drs. Jason Tregellas (primary), Susan Johnson, Marc Cornier (co-mentor) are recognized experts in the fields of neuroimaging, eating behaviors, and obesity, respectively. Dr. Shapiro will also receive additional training with leading experts in the field of pediatric eating behaviors at the Pennsylvania State University (collaborators). The University of Colorado Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus will provide a rich training and research environment for Dr. Shapiro to accomplish her short- and long-term research and career goals. Specifically, the University of Colorado Brain Imaging Center, with its research-dedicated 3T MRI scanner (Director: Tregellas), will be a significant resource for Dr. Shapiro?s current and future research efforts. Dr. Shapiro also has the full backing of her department (Psychiatry) which will continue to provide her with protected research time, a start-up package with significant research funds, office space, and equipment. Furthermore, Dr. Shapiro will have access to The Children?s Eating Laboratory (Director: Johnson), a state-of-the-art laboratory for collecting observational data for eating behaviors in pediatric groups. This award will help to establish the foundation on which Dr. Shapiro will build her expertise as a leading scientist in the study of the neural underpinnings of pediatric eating behaviors and obesity risk.
The brain plays an integral role in the genesis of eating behaviors. However, the brain?s contribution to dysregulated eating behavior is not well understood during sensitive developmental periods such as adolescence, when excessive weight gain and obesity prevalence are a significant concern. In the proposed study, we will examine how the brain?s response to excess energy is related to dysregulated eating behaviors in adolescents with and without obesity with the overarching goal of providing a scientific basis to build new models of adolescent obesity risk and to test novel interventions for dysregulated eating behavior and obesity in developmentally vulnerable pediatric populations.