RESEARCH PROJECTS

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UNDERSTANDING THE INFLUENCE OF FOOD INSECURITY ON EATING BEHAVIORS

Recent studies have found as high as a six-fold increase in clinical eating disorders symptoms in individuals who experience the highest levels of food insecurity (the state of being without reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food) relative to non-food insecure individuals (Becker et al., 2017). This strong association between food insecurity and eating pathology, suggests that food insecurity may be an important environmental influence; however, factors underlying this association are unclear. Our lab has several ongoing projects aimed at understanding the link between food insecurity and eating behaviors.

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EXPLORING GENETIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS UNDERLYING EATING PATHOLOGY

Much of Dr. O'Connor's initial training was in applying twin methodologies to answer questions about the gene-environment interplay. Twin studies are able to answer questions, such as: Does heritability change with exposure to various environmental factors? Do children resemble their parents due to shared genes, a shared home environment, or due to shared genes influencing their home environment? Dr. O'Connor continues to maintain collaborations with the Michigan State University Twin Registry (MSUTR) and Minnesota Twin and Family Study (MTFS), in order to explore these important questions.

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EXPLORING PEER SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES IN MOOD, PERSONALITY, AND BEHAVIOR

Peers are an important source of influence, particularly during young adulthood. The BeFed lab is currently recruiting female friend pairs (age 18-24 years old) to participate in a study exploring similarities within friendship groups on a number of factors, including mood (e.g., depression, anxiety, stress), personality, and behavior (e.g., eating habits, exercise). Developing a better understanding of the influence of peers can highlight important places to intervene for better mental health for young adults. If you are interested in participating in this study, please email BeFedlab@gmail.com.