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.
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.
EXPLORING PEER SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES IN MOOD, PERSONALITY, AND BEHAVIOR
Peers are an important source of influence, particularly during young adulthood. The BeFed lab recently recruited 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.
EXPLORING EATING PATTERNS ASSOCIATED WITH INTERMITTENT FASTING
Graduate student, Francois Ban, is interested in understanding the eating patterns of current and former intermittent fasters. We will be recruiting participants to answer multiple-choice questions about their relationship with food, eating patterns, and engagement in exercise. The study will take approximately 30 minutes to complete. At the end of the survey, participants will have the opportunity to earn a $10 gift card of their choice (e.g., Amazon, Starbucks, Target, etc.) as compensation. If you are interested in participating in this study, please email BeFedlab@montclair.edu
UNDERSTANDING FACTORS UNDERLYING STUDENT INTEREST IN PARTICIPATION IN RESEARCH
Internationally, most genomic research occurs in populations of European ancestry, with other racial and ethnic groups frequently absent from large-scale cohort studies, genome-wide association studies, and biobanks. It is unclear whether the lack of diverse representation in behavioral genetics research is predominantly due to sampling issues or whether there is hesitation amongst under-represented groups to participate in behavioral genetics studies. Given the behavioral genetics field's egregious history of misconduct, particularly in regard to minority populations (e.g., connections to the eugenics movement), hesitation to participate in research is understandably warranted. However, without representative samples, advances in medical genomics and behavioral genetics may only assist a small segment of the population. Further understanding what factors may contribute to one's willingness to participate in genomic research would assist in tailoring recruitment efforts.