In a series of studies we have shown that children and adults habituate, or show a gradual reduction in responding, to repeated presentations of olfactory, gustatory, or the combination of olfactory and gustatory food cues. The rate of habituation is inversely related to energy intake in a meal, and obese children and adults habituate slower than leaner peers and consume more food. Habituation is a basic form of learning that is observed in many response systems. We believe that habituation is an important process that mediates food regulation during a meal and across meals. However, there has been no research in children that translates basic research on habituation to food into clinical interventions. This center grant is a systematic attempt to translate basic research from our laboratory on habituation to food into effective clinical interventions for overweight children. In the first phase (Years 01-02) we will implement a series of laboratory studies to assess the effects of stimulus specificity and variety, and the simultaneous reduction of variety for high energy density foods while increasing the variety of low energy density foods on short (within meal) and long-term (across meal) habituation. The second phase (Years 02-03) is designed to implement a series of field studies that will extend basic research from the first phase as well as define the optimal interval for reducing variety to facilitate long-term habituation to high energy density foods in the natural environment. The third phase (Years 04-05) is designed to develop and pilot test a family-based behavioral intervention for children that incorporates findings from Phase 2 into a clinical intervention.

Public Health Relevance

Habituation is a theoretically rich behavioral science area that is important to satiation and energy intake regulation. The proposed research will translate research on habituation to clinical interventions for overweight youth in a hierarchical structure, progressing from laboratory studies to controlled field studies to the development of clinical interventions. The translation of this basic science may have important implications for the treatment of pediatric obesity.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Research Project--Cooperative Agreements (U01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZHL1-CSR-H (S1))
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Staten, Myrlene A
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State University of New York at Buffalo
Schools of Medicine
United States
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O'Neill, Jessica; Daniel, Tinuke Oluyomi; Epstein, Leonard H (2016) Episodic future thinking reduces eating in a food court. Eat Behav 20:9-13
Thrailkill, Eric A; Epstein, Leonard H; Bouton, Mark E (2015) Effects of inter-food interval on the variety effect in an instrumental food-seeking task. Clarifying the role of habituation. Appetite 84:43-53
Sze, Yan Yan; Daniel, Tinuke Oluyomi; Kilanowski, Colleen K et al. (2015) Web-Based and Mobile Delivery of an Episodic Future Thinking Intervention for Overweight and Obese Families: A Feasibility Study. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth 3:e97
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Epstein, Leonard H; Jankowiak, Noelle; Lin, Henry et al. (2014) No food for thought: moderating effects of delay discounting and future time perspective on the relation between income and food insecurity. Am J Clin Nutr 100:884-90
Bouton, Mark E; Todd, Travis P; Miles, Olivia W et al. (2013) Within- and between-session variety effects in a food-seeking habituation paradigm. Appetite 66:10-9
Daniel, Tinuke Oluyomi; Stanton, Christina M; Epstein, Leonard H (2013) The future is now: comparing the effect of episodic future thinking on impulsivity in lean and obese individuals. Appetite 71:120-5

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