Dana Small, PhD

Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Psychology; Director, Modern Diet and Physiology Research Center

Research Interests

Dopamine; Motivation; Neurophysiology; Obesity; Psychophysics; Stress, Psychological; Neuroimaging; Psychiatry and Psychology

Research Organizations

Psychiatry: Center for Nicotine and Tobacco Use Research at Yale (CENTURY) | Connecticut Mental Health Center | Neuroscience Research Training Program (NRTP) | Stress & Addiction Clinical Research Program | Yale Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science

Faculty Research

Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program

Obesity Research Working Group

Office of Cooperative Research

Research Summary

Neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography have made it possible to study brain representation of sensation, motivation and cognition in humans. The primary interest of my lab is to use these techniques in conjunction with psychophysics and behavioral testing to uncover brain substrates of taste, smell, flavor, and food reward. We are particularly interested in multisensory integration of taste and smell as well as in understanding how sensory processing interacts with behavioral choices such as decisions to eat or stop eating in healthy individuals and in people with eating disorders. A new research aim is to examine similarities and differences in the neural representation of food and drug reward to answer questions such as how nicotine addiction may influence the ability of food odors to induce eating. We currently have a fully automated and fMRI compatible olfactometer and gustometer and are using these devices to study taste, smell and food reward in the 3 Tesla Magnet at the Yale MR Imaging Research Center.

Specialized Terms: Neurophysiology of feeding; Chemical senses; Neuroimaging; Dopamine; Addiction; Motivation; Psychophysics; Stress; Obesity

Extensive Research Description

  • The role of the amygdala in weight-gain susceptibility
  • Cognitive and affective influences on gustatory processing
  • Neural correlates of flavor processing
  • The influence of smoking on brain encoding of food
  • Neural correlates of flavor nutrient conditioning
  • Top-down influences on brain encoding of flavors and foods

Selected Publications

Full List of PubMed Publications

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