James E. McCutcheon

Foto: Jonatan Ottesen/UiT

James Edgard McCutcheon

PROTEST: Testing a neural basis for protein appetite

HOST INSTITUTE: Department of Psychology (IP), Health-fak
PERIOD: 2020-2023
Video about McCutheson’s project 

The world we live in is filled with foods that vary vastly in their nutritional content. Yet despite this complexity, humans and other animals manage to procure an appropriate mixture of nutrients to survive. Protein is of particular interest as many essential amino acids cannot be synthesized and so must be acquired from our diet. Failure to get enough protein leads to detrimental outcomes including stunted growth, poor health and, in severe cases, death. An indirect effect of low dietary protein is that consumption of fat and sugar may increase to compensate, resulting in obesity. Although studies have hinted that many species from spiders to humans regulate their intake of protein, we have little knowledge about how the brain controls this process.

This TFS project will use cutting-edge neuroscience techniques combined with sophisticated behavioral studies to address the question of how animals regulate protein intake. In particular, it will focus on how animals learn about the flavors of potential protein sources when they are in a state of protein restriction. The results will demonstrate the importance of protein for feeding behavior and will give insight into how appetite develops in the face of specific nutritional demands.

Dr James McCutcheon studied neuroscience in the UK at University of Sussex (B.Sc.) and University College London (Ph.D.) before moving to Chicago, USA to complete postdoctoral research where he focused on how the brain controls feeding and drug addiction. In 2013, he returned to the UK to establish a lab that combines behavioral observation with sophisticated ways of measuring brain activity. In 2019, James moved his lab and family to Tromsø and joined the Department of Psychology at UiT The Arctic University of Norway where he will conduct the TFS project.