Behavioral Science

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Review each tab of the Dossier.

Your Role

You are a:

  • Senior investigator
  • Behavioral scientist and health psychologist
  • A professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine

You have:

  • Prior experience working on and leading cross-disciplinary teams
  • Conducted federally funded clinical trials of weight loss treatments for two decades. Your grants for the past several years have involved studying weight-gain prevention during the menopausal transition
  • Completed a number of large federally funded grants that examine real-time triggering of food and drug cravings in participants’ natural environments
Research Objective

PROJECT:Unhealthy Eating Habits in Adult Obesity: A Multilevel Study. This program project will aim to improve current understanding of linkages among neurological, environmental and social mechanisms that trigger unhealthy eating behavior in obese adults. The same sample of obese adults will be tested in all three studies.

  • Environmental Food Cue Study: The study will examine whether participants show patterns of craving and food intake in their real environment that parallel the pattern of dysregulated brain activation and inhibition they show in the fMRI scanner. Various technologies will be used to localize favorite unhealthy trigger foods as well as healthier alternative foods in the person’s environment and to track when the participant is in proximity to them. Experiences will be sampled in real time in proximity to unhealthy trigger foods, healthy foods, and neutral cues to examine the effect of environmental contexts on food craving and eating.
  • Neuroimaging Study: This study will examine the theory that overeating in obesity resembles an addictive process and reflects similar dysregulation in brain circuitry. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) will be used to examine whether brain circuitry in obese adults shows too little inhibition in response to their favorite high-calorie unhealthy trigger foods, or too little activation in response to low-calorie healthy foods. Exposure to trigger foods will be paired with exposure to pictures of lean or obese friends to see whether the presence of a lean friend enhances and the presence of an obese friend impairs inhibitory control.
  • Social Network Study: Social network studies suggest that obese individuals in the center of a obesity cluster (i.e., all of whose network neighbors are obese) will have great difficulty succeeding at weight loss. Odds of successful weight loss are better for equally obese others who are at the edge of an obesity cluster (i.e., who have both obese and lean network neighbors). The association between obesity clustering and weight loss success is usually attributed to the influence of social norms. This study will test the alternative hypothesis that social networks influences neurocognitive functioning, such that those identified as being at the center of an obesity cluster demonstrate worse functioning of inhibitory circuits during fMRI testing and greater behavioral disinhibition in their real world environments than do equally obese others located at the edge of an obesity cluster.

Simulation Objective

Assemble a team and find a funding opportunity for a Program Project Grant or Collaborative Award that can support the cross-disciplinary team that you need to study this problem. The project will be integrated thematically in such a way that the three individual research projects will synergize and yield greater results than would be expected if each project were conducted separately.

Project Timeline

Take a look at how long each step might take in a real world setting.

Room 1: Forming a Team

This relationship-building can take 3 weeks to 3 years.

Room 2: Identifying Funding and Proposal Submission

This typically takes 2 weeks to 6 months.

Room 3: Project Kick-off

This typically takes 1 month.

Room 4: Managing the Team

This will happen throughout the project.

Room 5: Evaluating Success Mid-Project

This typically takes a few months.


P01 (PPG): The NIH Project Program Grant (P01) is "for the support of a broadly based, multidisciplinary, often long-term research program which has a specific major objective or a basic theme. A program project generally involves the organized efforts of relatively large groups, members of which are conducting research projects designed to elucidate the various aspects or components of this objective".

R01: "The [NIH] Research Project (R01) grant is an award made to support a discrete, specified, circumscribed project to be performed by the named investigator(s) in an area representing the investigator’s specific interest and competencies, based on the mission of the NIH. " The multiple projects that make up the PPG are each similar in size and scope to a stand-alone R01 funding mechanism. You’ll see R01 mentioned many times through the module, referring to the separate components of the PPG.

Information in the glossary from grants.nih.gov