Body-Brain Interaction

Contact: Prof. Dr. Soyoung Q Park, Dr. Ignacio Rebollo, Dr. Annabel Losecaat Vermeer, Dr. Stefania Cionca, Dr. Anne-Katrin Muth

Funding: DZD, DFG, Einstein Stiftung Berlin

What did you eat for breakfast? Can you imagine that your breakfast content impacts your social decisions?

The human brain is in constant interaction with bodily functions to enable optimal behavior (Muth & Park under review). We show that the macronutrient composition of the food we eat can change metabolic responses, thus impacting brain function and thereby changing our social decisions (Strang et al., 2017, PNAS) or risk choices (Liu et al., 2021, NeuroImage). We hypothesize that food content can influence the brain dopaminergic or serotonergic system, which in turn affects brain function and choices. The Department of Decision Neuroscience and Nutrition has tackled this by means of pharmacological intervention studies in healthy participants. We show that dopamine changes diverse choices and evaluations in a specific manner (Bellucci, Münte, Park, 2019, J. Psychopharmacol.; 2020, Psychopharmacology (Berl.); Oroz Artigas et al., 2020, PLoSONE).

Besides the neurochemical pathways, distinct psychophysiological signals can be used as a read-out for choices, i.e., they indicate underlying mechanisms driving the decision. We work with diverse techniques to measure these psychophysiological signals, such as heart rate, skin conductance, eye movement, pupil dilation, respiration and stomach activity (Rebollo et al., 2018, Elife; Rebollo et al., 2021, COBME) to infer brain and bodily function. Additionally, the image of our own body and awareness of bodily functions can play an important role in general well-being and cognitive performance, but also in the development and maintenance of eating disorders. The Department of Decision Neuroscience and Nutrition makes use of leading-edge technology, such as virtual reality, which offer a high level of immersion, to pursue these lines of study in an innovative way.