University of Auckland

University of Auckland Celebrates $19.8M from Marsden Fund

November 2, 2017

The University of Auckland is celebrating the success of 31 of its researchers and research groups whose projects have won $19.8 million in the Marsden Fund round.

Research at the University supported by the fund will address diverse topics including the origins of early life on earth; defending blood flow to the ‘selfish’ brain; a Māori archaeology of threatened rock art; building an ‘atlas’ of the human gut; and the impact of marketing ‘health’ to children.

“These awards recognise the high calibre of researchers at the University of Auckland as well as the quality and breadth of our research,” says Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Jim Metson.

“The Marsden Fund supports the cutting-edge of new research which will lead to discoveries that shape our future. We congratulate our researchers for this recognition of their outstanding work.”



Marsden marvels: 10 of the most exciting new projects (via NZ Herald)

November 2, 2017

Do we eat less food if it has a complex texture? There are many factors contributing to a worldwide obesity epidemic, which has seen global obesity nearly triple over four decades a point where nearly 40 per cent of adults were overweight and 13 per cent were obese.

In New Zealand, one of the world's fattest nations, almost one in three adults were obese and a further 35 per cent were overweight, according to the latest Ministry of Health statistics.

A big part of the puzzle is why people continued to eat, or eat between meals, when they were full. Feeling full could be heightened by spending more time and effort on chewing food. However, recently it had also been shown that the sense of feeling full could be accelerated by food texture - and in particular, complex textures.

Complex textures might be a combination of many sensations, such as crunchy, creamy, and crispy like a Ferrero Rocher chocolate.

Alternatively, they may be just a few textures sensed with high intensity, like a tooth-breakingly-hard Gingernut biscuit.

Yet the mechanisms that connected textural complexity with the feeling of fullness were not well understood.

University of Auckland researchers Professor Bryony James, Associate Professor Michael Hautus and Dr Nicholas Gant aim to fill this crucial knowledge gap by finding whether the increased effort required to chew texturally complex foods resulted in a cascade of sensory inputs to the brain, stimulating signals to the gut.

Their $945,000 study would draw on an interdisciplinary approach, using functional MRI to investigate the response of the human brain to different food textures, and linking these neural responses to food material properties and to perceptions of texture.

This hallmark study would directly connect the responses of our mouth, brain and gut to the physical properties of the food we eat. Ultimately, the research stood to contribute to a better understanding of appetite and eating - and enable better insight into how to combat the rising obesity epidemic.



Marsden Awards 2017: Congratulations!

November 1, 2017

Congratulations to Professor Bryony James, Associate Professor Michael Hautus and Dr Nicholas Ganton on receiving a Marsden Fund grant! They will use it to investigate how food texture relates to our sense of feeling full. This project will help in planning dietary strategies to combat obesity.



Fechner Day, 2017

October 29, 2017
The Psychophysics lab and collaborators celebrated Fechner Day at the Mexican Cafe.


Research Collaboration

October 4, 2017

Dr Michael Hautus (University of Auckland) recently returned from a trip to meet up with collaborators in the United States (Professors Neil Macmillan and Caren Rotello), the Netherlands (Dr Danielle van Hout), and South Korea (Dr Hye-Seong Lee). Discussion about past and future research and writing projects was productive and enjoyable.

Dr Hautus (centre back) and Dr Lee (centre front) enjoying lunch with the PG students from Dr Lee’s laboratory at Ewha Womans University. (Photo: Jiseon Chang)