There is an imperative need to alter current strategies for the prevention and management of obesity in children. Today's obesiogenic environment makes it impossible to reduce exposure to cues that trigger maladaptive eating behaviors. Thus, there is an urgent need to study basic behavioral mechanisms that can reduce the potency of these cues to trigger overeating. Given empirical advances in learning mechanisms related to Pavlovian conditioning, the time is ripe to utilize this knowledge to launch a program of research targeting novel treatments for obesity based on learning theory. Our preliminary data with overweight and obese 8-12 year old children suggests that a cue exposure treatment (CET-Food;based on Pavlovian extinction) can impact overeating. Although promising, basic knowledge is needed to improve CET-Food. The objective of this application is to conduct a series of formative experiments based on learning theory and other translation mechanisms to enhance and improve our current CET-Food to reduce overeating in children. We will evaluate pertinent outcomes related to overeating, including psychophysiological measurements of salivation and heart rate variability, self-reported cravings and a laboratory paradigm measuring overeating to determine the most effective factors to improve CET-Food. Based on the formative experiments, we will combine this knowledge and evaluate the acceptability and feasibility in a proof of concept intervention. Ultimately, we will conduct a pilot trial comparing family-based treatment for childhood obesity with CET-Food to family-based treatment alone. The overall goal of this application is to develop an optimized intervention that will be efficacios in reducing overeating in children, which can be used in randomized controlled trials. This research has the potential to improve the knowledge base for the management and control of obesity, and to inform a new wave of interventions for obesity.

Public Health Relevance

The purpose of this application is to study extinction processes related to food cues, as a means of enhancing a cue exposure treatment (CET-Food) to improve obesity treatment for children. This project could result in identifying basic behaviora mechanisms which can lead to promising childhood obesity interventions.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-RPHB-N (02))
Program Officer
Hunter, Christine
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of California San Diego
Schools of Medicine
La Jolla
United States
Zip Code
Eichen, Dawn M; Matheson, Brittany E; Appleton-Knapp, Sara L et al. (2017) Neurocognitive Treatments for Eating Disorders and Obesity. Curr Psychiatry Rep 19:62
Mestre, Z L; Bischoff-Grethe, A; Eichen, D M et al. (2017) Hippocampal atrophy and altered brain responses to pleasant tastes among obese compared with healthy weight children. Int J Obes (Lond) 41:1496-1502
Liang, June; Matheson, Brittany E; Rhee, Kyung E et al. (2016) Parental control and overconsumption of snack foods in overweight and obese children. Appetite 100:181-8
Boutelle, Kerri N; Bouton, Mark E (2015) Implications of learning theory for developing programs to decrease overeating. Appetite 93:62-74
Boutelle, K N; Wierenga, C E; Bischoff-Grethe, A et al. (2015) Increased brain response to appetitive tastes in the insula and amygdala in obese compared with healthy weight children when sated. Int J Obes (Lond) 39:620-8
Boutelle, Kerri N; Liang, June; Knatz, Stephanie et al. (2015) Design and implementation of a study evaluating extinction processes to food cues in obese children: the Intervention for Regulations of Cues Trial (iROC). Contemp Clin Trials 40:95-104
Boutelle, Kerri N; Zucker, Nancy; Peterson, Carol B et al. (2014) An intervention based on Schachter's externality theory for overweight children: the regulation of cues pilot. J Pediatr Psychol 39:405-17
Liang, J; Matheson, B E; Kaye, W H et al. (2014) Neurocognitive correlates of obesity and obesity-related behaviors in children and adolescents. Int J Obes (Lond) 38:494-506
Madowitz, Jennifer; Liang, June; Peterson, Carol B et al. (2014) Concurrent and convergent validity of the eating in the absence of hunger questionnaire and behavioral paradigm in overweight children. Int J Eat Disord 47:287-95
Boutelle, Kerri N; Kuckertz, Jennie M; Carlson, Jordan et al. (2014) A pilot study evaluating a one-session attention modification training to decrease overeating in obese children. Appetite 76:180-5

Showing the most recent 10 out of 11 publications