People take hundreds of food choices each day. At the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Aarts is conducting research into how motivation and control processes in the brain play a role in this. The food choices we make also affect the health of our brain. In her research, Aarts is deciphering how this takes place, such as via the immune system or intestinal bacteria. She is examining these body-brain connections using brain scans (functional MRI), biological measurements, and interventions with food supplements, medication, or lifestyle coaching.
“We can only understand and prevent major societal problems such as obesity and cognitive decline through interdisciplinary research,” says Aarts. “I want to contribute to this with my research at the intersection of biology, psychology, and brain sciences. I am therefore always looking for collaboration with experts in other disciplines and with parties who can implement the research in practice.”
About Esther Aarts
Esther Aarts (Eindhoven, 1980) studied Biology at Radboud University. She received her PhD in 2009 with her thesis “Resisting temptation: The role of the anterior cingulate cortex in adjusting cognitive control” about the role of the brain in controlled versus automated behaviour.
After an initial postdoc at Radboud university medical center, Aarts went to the University of California in Berkeley for a postdoctoral fellowship from 2010 to 2012. After her return to the Netherlands, she started her own research group in Food & Cognition at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. She did so with several personal and public-private grants, including an NWO Veni (2012), ERC starting grant (2019), and the NWO crossover (2019). Aarts collaborates with societal and industrial parties on food and technological innovations for making healthy choices and maintaining a healthy brain.