The new project is an interdisciplinary research project covering the neurobiological and socio-psychological causes of obesity. It has been awarded EUR 6 million from the EU, corresponding to just over SEK 60 million. The project will gather scientists from seven countries, and will be co-ordinated from the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Those working on the project include scientists active within psychology, epidemiology, genetics, nutrition and endocrinology. All are internationally renowned experts in their field.
"There are many factors that contribute to cause obesity. The purely biological factors are, of course, very important, but the cultural, sociological and psychological aspects are just as important. This is why we want to create a comprehensive picture of the problem," says Professor Suzanne Dickson at the Sahlgrenska Academy, who is co-ordinating the EU project.
The new research project has been given the name NeuroFAST (The Integrated Neurobiology of Food Intake, Addiction and Stress), and involves 12 research groups from seven countries. Participants are located in the Netherlands, Italy, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary and Spain, in addition to Sweden. The broad research collaboration within the project will ensure that it has access to a large group of patients on which to base the research. The research project is to last for five years.
The work of Suzanne Dickson and her colleagues at the Sahlgrenska Academy will focus on how the central nervous system controls the composition of the body. The Swedish research team is particularly interested in the signalling system in the hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that controls hunger and thirst, among other things.
"There is a neurological reward system for food, which has many similarities to the reward system for alcohol. This reward system makes eating a pleasure, and it can also lead to addiction. We are investigating the detailed way in which various hormones and other substances interact within the reward system", says Suzanne Dickson.
Suzanne Dickson has been very successful when applying for grants from the EU. She was, until recently, co-ordinator for Diabesity, an EU project with a budget of SEK 100 million. And her research team was recently awarded a further SEK 4 million from the EU, as part of the EurOCHIP project.
The Sahlgrenska Academy is the faculty of health sciences at the University of Gothenburg. Education and research are conducted within the fields of medicine, odontology and care sciences.
About 4,000 undergraduate students and 1,000 postgraduate students are enrolled at the Sahlgrenska Academy. The academy has a staff of about 1,500, 850 of whom are researchers and/or teachers.