I study nutrition and behaviour, and a large part of this research is concerned with how physiological, learned and cognitive controls on appetite are integrated. The results are relevant to identifying the causes of obesity and disordered eating, and to understanding food choice, food craving and food ‘addiction.’ I also work on dietary effects on mood and cognition; which includes research on how food consumption affects alertness and attention, and studies of longer term influences of diet on psychological health.
Linking the above themes is my third area of interest – the psychopharmacology of caffeine. My research on this ubiquitously consumed substance began with questions about how preferences for caffeine-containing drinks develop, and now focuses on caffeine’s psychostimulant, anxiogenic and motor effects. Caffeine provides a good example of the distinction between dependence and addiction. When frequent caffeine consumers interrupt their habit for more than half a day they function below par (dependence), but this does not cause a strong compulsion to consume caffeine.
After doing degrees in Biology (BSc) and Experimental Psychology (MSc) at the University of Sussex (1972-1976), I worked in teaching and research at the Universities of Leeds and Manchester (1976-1990). I completed a PhD on eating behaviour at the University of Leeds in 1983. Between 1990 and 1998 I was Head of Psychobiology in the Consumer Sciences Department, Institute of Food Research, Reading. During part of my last year with the Institute of Food Research I worked at CSIRO Division of Human Nutrition, Adelaide, Australia. I joined the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol as Senior Lecturer in 1999 and was promoted to Professor of Biological Psychology in 2003. I was Head of Department during 2001 to 2004, and am currently doing this job again (2008-). I am a Chartered Psychologist, a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and a Registered Nutritionist.
I am a psychologist with an academic background in biological sciences. Broadly speaking, my current research is concerned with nutrition and behaviour, and involves fundamental and applied studies, and interdisciplinary collaboration. A major theme is motivation, learning and cognition in relation to the control appetite and the acquisition of food preferences. Further fundamental work has investigated dietary influences on cognitive performance and mood, and the psychopharmacology of caffeine. My research on caffeine, which began with questions about how preferences for caffeine-containing drinks develop, involves several original lines of work investigating the reinforcing, mood and psychomotor effects of this ubiquitously consumed substance. We are now applying similar methodologies in new research on nicotine.
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