Dr. Ellen Schur’s research aims to understand how the brain regulates appetite. In humans, social, psychological, physiologic, and other factors influence appetite and food intake. Dr. Schur’s team performs studies using both functional and structural neuroimaging techniques to study the brain. They investigate how genetics, diet, and disease (obesity and diabetes) influence appetite regulation in the brain and if obesity treatment can affect this process. The lab’s current functional MRI studies evaluate the influence of genetics, body weight and behavioral weight loss on the brain’s response to images of high- and low-calorie food to reach a better understanding of how the brain links these factors to food intake and obesity risk. Their current structural MRI studies evaluate hypothalamic inflammation and injury—or gliosis—in both adults and children. Gliosis, a form of scarring, results from excess caloric intake in rodents. In humans, the Schur Lab’s MRI studies have shown signs of gliosis in obese and insulin-resistant individuals, and that signs of gliosis can predict worsening glucose metabolism over time. They are actively investigating how these changes influence the risk of obesity and diabetes and if weight loss interventions can change the degree of hypothalamic inflammation.