Research Labs

Website: Behavioral Health & Wellbeing Lab

The Behavioral Health and Wellbeing Lab is directed by Dr. Elizabeth Cotter. The lab’s research is primarily focused on the prevention and treatment of eating and weight-related concerns and mindfulness-based approaches to improving health behaviors.

The lab is currently conducting a study examining how mindfulness might influence impulsivity and cardiovascular outcomes in adolescents with severe obesity, a nationwide study examining the antecedents and consequences of loss of control eating in young men through daily surveys, and qualitative research to examine how families in Washington, DC, think about healthy eating.

Website: Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities Lab

The Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities Lab is directed by Dr. Stacey Snelling. Our research focuses on methods of facilitating changes, from the individual level to system-wide policies, to support healthy behaviors, increase access to healthy foods and physical activity, and reduce risk factors that contribute to chronic disease.

Health promotion and disease prevention programs focus on keeping people healthy through education and environmental changes that create a culture of health in communities where people live, work, learn, and worship. Health promotion programs aim to engage and empower individuals and communities to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

The work of the Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities lab includes research evaluating use of corner stores to increase access to fresh produce in underserved communities, designing faith-based health literacy programs, and Healthy Schoolhouse 2.0, a program that seeks to increase health literacy and prevent obesity in DC-area schools.

Website: Lavender Lab

The Lavender Lab is directed by Dr. Ethan Mereish. The Lavender Lab seeks to produce and disseminate knowledge to better understand and reduce sexual orientation, gender, and racial/ethnic disparities in health. The lab conducts NIH-funded research on the psychological, social, and cultural determinants of health for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals and racial/ethnic minorities.

Members of marginalized or stigmatized groups frequently experience unique stressors associated with their identity, including real or perceived discrimination, harassment, violence, microaggressions, and internalized stigma. These types of stressors are often referred to as "minority stressors." LGBTQ youth and adults, for example, report poorer mental health and increased substance use compared to heterosexual and cisgender individuals. These disparities are often explained by minority stressors and stigma that LGBTQ people experience (e.g., heterosexism, biphobia, transphobia). As such, The Lavender Lab is particularly interested in individuals' experiences with minority stress and its effects on mental health and substance use. We are also interested in identifying factors that may serve as protective or resilience promoting against minority stress.

Website: Nutritional Neuroscience Lab

The Nutritional Neuroscience Lab is directed by Dr. Kathleen Holton. The focus of the lab is on understanding how dietary intake can impact neurological health. Nutrition is the basis of all human health, including the health of the brain, where diet can exert both positive and negative impacts. The Nutritional Neuroscience Lab examines how exposure to food additives can negatively impact brain function, and how certain nutrients in the diet can protect against these negative effects. We are especially interested in how exposure to dietary excitotoxins can lead to neurological symptoms, including pain, cognitive dysfunction, gastrointestinal disorders, memory loss, inattention, and centrally mediated fatigue.

Our lab is currently working on multiple projects including a large DoD funded study examining the effect of dietary glutamate on the neurological symptoms experienced by Gulf War veterans and some pilot research in collaboration with Children’s National Medical Center to examine the effects of dietary glutamate on childhood epilepsy.

Dr. Jessica L. Young is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Studies. Dr. Young’s research interests focus on health equity, public health policy, community development, and philanthropy. Dr. Young also serves as the Health Team Lead at the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at AU. In this role, she leads a research project on Black maternal health in Washington, DC, funded by the Consumer Health Foundation. Dr. Young is also completing a project examining relationships between county-level economic distress and population health behaviors and outcomes.

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Contact: Dr. Jessica Young, jessica@american.edu