Project Summary

Maladaptive impulsivity and compulsivity predispose to antisocial and addictive behaviours. Factors influencing those traits are not well understood, but diet, lifestyle, socio-economic status (SES), sex, and heritability play pivotal roles.

In the present project, our ultimate goals include:

  • identifying nutritional drivers and lifestyle variations that may prevent detrimental effects of impulsivity and compulsivity across the lifespan, taking under account socio-economic environment, sex, age, culture and genetics;
  • characterizing the etiological paths leading to impulsivity and compulsivity from the molecular level via the gut (in particular microbiota and their metabolic effects) to the brain;
  • promoting societal changes that will counteract maladaptive impulsivity and compulsivity by bringing evidence-based information about health-related behaviours (nutrition, lifestyle) to families, clinicians, the general public, and policy makers.

Our group, in which experts from multiple disciplines join forces, is in a unique position to successfully carry out this project. We use epidemiologic approaches in the world-wide largest existing samples to assess the beneficial effects of key nutritional interventions through randomized, double blind placebo-controlled studies (RCTs) in highly impulsive males/females, going beyond state-of-the-art by directly comparing personalized, high-intensity approaches with one-size-fits- all and microbiome-dependent supplementations. We study the protective potential of acute exercise and habitual physical activity and monitor intervention-induced changes in real time through objective mHealth- based experience sampling. Uniquely, we study effects of the gut-microbiome and its metabolites, as well as brain connectivity and epigenetic patterns as mediators and predictors of behavioural change. We invest significant effort to initiate and support societal change by media-based information and education. And last of all, we innovate the field by measuring behavioural change using social media downstream of educational campaigns and by translation of our findings into tangible healthy food solutions with a celebrity chef.