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Kyle Simmons, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

The research in my lab falls generally within two domains. One is the neural bases of human conceptual representation, particularly as it pertains to food knowledge. Currently, my lab has active studies examining the neural systems supporting food taste and reward inferences, both in healthy adults and obese populations. My lab is likewise studying the neural systems underlying food motivation and reward property inferences in several psychiatric populations, including patients with Major Depressive Disorder and Eating Disorders. In a second domain of research, my lab is examining the functional organization of the insular cortex, with particular attention to the insula’s role in interoceptive awareness. This line of research, which is currently funded by both private and government agencies, seeks to detail how the insula integrates interoceptive signals about the body’s homeostatic state with emotional and hedonic information represented in brain regions to which the insula is strongly connected, such as the cingulate, amygdala, striatum, and orbitofrontal cortex. As with my studies of food conceptual representation, this line of research also seeks to bring cognitive neuroscience into the clinical domain, with ongoing studies of insula functional organization in both depressed and eating disordered populations. These two domains of research are in fact highly related, as the insula plays an important role in food motivation and gustatory representation, and interoception is an important component in satiety signaling. The common goal of these two lines of research is to elucidate how the body’s homeostatic state influences food knowledge representation and food-related decision making, both normatively and in psychiatric illness.

Research interests:
Food conceptual representation
Insula functional organization and interoceptive awareness
Obesity
Depression
Eating disorders

Lab members:
Jason Avery, MS – University of Tulsa, Department of Biology
Jennifer Dobson, PhD - Laureate Institute for Brain Research
Kara Kerr, BS - University of Tulsa, Department of Psychology
Kaiping Burrows, PhD - Laureate Institute for Brain Reserach

Research Collaborators:

At LIBR:
Patrick Bellgowan, PhD
Jerzy Bodurka, PhD
Wayne Drevets, MD
William Yates, MD

In Tulsa:

Jamie Rhudy, PhD – University of Tulsa, Department of Psychology
Scott Moseman, MD – Laureate Psychiatric Hospital and Clinic

At NIH:

Alex Martin, PhD – Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, NIMH
Kevin Hall, PhD – Laboratory of Biological Modeling, NIDDK
Steve Gotts, PhD - Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, NIMH
Robert W. Cox, PhD – Scientific and Statistical Computing Core, NIMH
Ziad Saad, PhD - Scientific and Statistical Computing Core, NIMH

In Atlanta:

Lawrence W. Barsalou, PhD – Emory University, Department of Psychology

In Kansas City:
Cary Savage, PhD - University of Kansas Medical Center, Center for Health Behavior Neuroscience

In San Diego:
Martin P. Paulus, MD - University of California San Diego, Department of Psychiatry

In Boston:
Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD - Northeastern University, Department of Psychology