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John (Craig) Andrews, M.B.A., Ph.D., Professor and Charles H. Kellstadt Chair in Marketing

Dr. Andrews currently serves on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's Risk Communication Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C. (more)

He recently published the results of a study on front-of-package nutrition symbols in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing. When the Nutrition Facts Panel was not available, the UK traffic light FOP symbol resulted in substantially greater nutrition accuracy scores than for either the simple Smart Choices FOP symbol or no FOP control. In addition, he recently was responsible for ad copy testing on the Behavior Change Expert Panel for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign in New York.

SuJean Choi, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences

Dr. Choi's lab examines how the brain alters hunger, food intake and subsequently body weight. (more)

The results of our studies will provide a broader picture of how organisms regulate and maintain their energy balance and respond to the external environment. In addition, they will add to the basic foundation towards understanding health problems such as obesity, eating disorders, metabolic disorders, and depression and contribute to the development of more effective therapeutic strategies.

Currently, we have two main areas under investigation.

Mechanisms underlying appetite suppressants
Appetite suppressants are used clinically to help patients control body weight by reducing hunger and food intake. While these drugs do suppress food intake and promote weight loss, they lose efficacy when given chronically. The mechanisms by which these types of drugs lose efficacy with chronic administration is presently unknown. Current studies in the lab are designed to delineate brain circuits that are activated by appetite suppressing drugs and whether genetic manipulation of these brain circuits can alter feeding behavior and body weight gain.

Hypothalamic regulation of energy homeostasis
Hypothalamic function is important for the regulation of energy balance and is clearly involved in numerous animal models of obesity. In addition to feeding behavior, the hypothalamus regulates body weight gain, fat deposition, adrenocortical activity, insulin secretion, sympathetic activity and circadian rhythms. Lesions to a number of different hypothalamic subgroups result in unique patterns of obesity. Currently, we are examining the role of pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) on feeding behavior, metabolism, and motivational circuits. The results of these studies will demonstrate a useful model for mapping the inputs/outputs of important appetite and metabolic control centers in the hypothalamus, and increase our basic understanding of the central mechanisms controlling energy homeostasis.

Marilyn Frenn, Ph.D., Associate Professor, College of Nursing

Dr. Frenn's research is in childhood obesity prevention and pre- and probiotics. (more)

She has developed and tested a Health Promotion/Transtheoretical Model online intervention, Project FUN, with children in Milwaukee Public Schools and area private schools. The reduced dietary fat and increased physical activity have been demonstrated for the intervention group students compared to usual class controls. She also has developed an authoritative parenting online intervention to help parents of the children better foster healthy nutrition and exercise. A recent pilot study demonstrated the greatest BMI reduction when both a parent and the student participated in the online programs.

Dr. Frenn currently has proposals in review to examine the effects of prebiotics and probiotics in reducing BMI, alone or in combination with Project FUN.

Related Publications

Frenn, M., Heinrich, A., Schmidt, C. , & Pruszynski, J.E. (2011). What can parents do to reduce youth obesity? An initial study with a diverse sample. Journal of Pediatric Nursing. 26, 428-434.

Polfuss, M., & Frenn. M. (in press).Parenting and feeding behaviors associated with school-aged African American and Caucasian children. Western Journal of Nursing Research.

Polfuss, M., & Frenn. M. (in press). Parenting Behaviors of African American and Caucasian Families: Parent and Child Perceptions, Associations with Child Weight and Ability to Identify Abnormal Weight Status. Journal of Pediatric Nursing.

Havice, M., Malin, S., Schweizer, H., & Frenn, M. (2007). Engaging students through collaboration: How Project FUN works. Nursing Education Perspectives, 28, 203-208.

Frenn, M., Malin, S., Villarruel, A.M., Pearson, K., McCarthy, S., Freeman, J., & Nee, E. (2005). Determinants of physical activity and low-fat diet among low income African American and Hispanic middle school students. Public Health Nursing, 22, 89-97.

Frenn, M., Malin, S., Brown, R.L., Greer, Y., Fox, J. Greer, J., & Smyczek, S. (2005). Changing the tide: An Internet/video exercise and low fat diet intervention with middle school students. Applied Nursing Research. 18, 13-21.

Frenn, M., Malin, S., Bansal, N., Delgado, M., Greer, Y., Havice. M., Ho, M., & Schweizer, H. (2003). Addressing health disparities in middle school students' nutrition and exercise. Journal of Community Health Nursing. 20(1), 1-14.

Frenn, M., & Malin, S. (2003). Diet and exercise in low income, culturally diverse middle school students. Public Health Nursing, 20, 361-368.

Frenn, M., Malin, S., & Bansal, N.K. (2003). Stage based interventions for low fat diet with middle school students. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 18, 1-10.

Angelique Harris, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology, Department of Social and Cultural Sciences

Dr. Harris' research examines how minority groups work to reduce health disparities within their own communities. (more)

Dr. Harris' research interests include the sociology of health and illness, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, religion, and social movements. Her current research project examines health activism among Black women in the United States.

Astrida Kaugars, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Psychology

Dr. Kaugars' research goals relate to the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity using innovative and multidisciplinary interventions. (more)

Dr. Kaugars is a consultant on a grant entitled, "Family Health Through Worksite Wellness: A Planning Grant" currently under review by Northwest Mutual Foundation. The grant is a collaborative initiative among partners from the Clinical Translational Science Institute of Southeastern Wisconsin (CTSI), Medical College of Wisconsin, Marquette University, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, and the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee. The proposed project is the planning phase for a pioneering and novel approach to promote family-based lifestyles that foster health by enhancing environments for children.

Kristy Nielson, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology

Dr. Nielson's research interests include cognition, psychobiology and neuropsychology, specifically related to memory, attention, aging, dementia and functional MRI. (more)

She principally studies how memories are enhanced or impaired, how aging affects memory, the prediction of dementia and Alzheimer's disease using fMRI and risk factors, and methods to enhance memory and performance across the lifespan in environments such as classrooms and at work.

Lawrence G. Pan, PT, Ph.D., FAPTA, Chair and Professor, Department of Physical Therapy

Dr. Pan's interest is in urban health issues, including increasing the recruitment and retention of disadvantaged students in health professions and fostering healthy life choices in Hispanic youth. (more)

He holds two federal grants from the US Health and Human Services - a 3-year, $1.6 million Health Careers Opportunity Program grant to recruit and retain disadvantaged students in health professions, and a $900,000 Youth Empowered to Succeed (YES) Program that fosters healthy life choices in Hispanic youth.

Marquette's YES program is testing innovative ideas to promote healthy lifestyles in Hispanic Middle School children at Bruce Guadalupe Community School. YES represents partnership between Marquette University, the United Community Center, Bruce Guadalupe Community School, and Latino Arts. Nutrition, fitness training, recreational activities, UCC Teen Center activities, academic enrichment in the sciences, tutorials and mentorship by our Marquette students in health sciences are provided in YES programming. Academic year programming after school and an extensive summer program are keys to the program. YES is funded by a $900,000 grant over three years from the Department of Health and Human Services through its Office of Minority Health. In addition, OMH has awarded Marquette Physical Therapy another $200,000 to write a national document of Youth Empowerment Success Stories which will be distributed throughout HHS and the government about this grant program. Dr. Lawrence Pan, chair and professor in physical therapy, serves as program director and Dr. Paula Papanek, director of the programs in exercise science, serves as co-program director.

Marquette's Health Careers Opportunity Program has been funded for the next three years for $1.95 million from the Department of Health and Human Services through the Health Resource Services administration. HCOP supports disadvantaged students to enter health professions including dentistry, physical therapy, physician assistant, clinical laboratory sciences, speech pathology and audiology, and biomedical sciences. The goal is to rectify health care disparities in the work force and health delivery. Marquette has graduated more than 800 health professionals from disadvantaged backgrounds since 1981. Career exploration in health professions, science enrichment, tutorials, and summer science enrichment programs are key features of HCOP. MPS, UWM, Milwaukee AHEC, and Pathways to College are key community partners with Marquette.

Michelle Polfuss, Ph.D., RN, CPNP-AC/PC, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin

Dr. Polfuss is interested in multiple areas of research related to pediatric obesity, particularly involving examining the family's role and/or impact on the child's obesity and developing interventions and examining obesity in children with spina bifida. (more)

She is starting with obtaining accurate body composition in this population since traditional BMI calculations can be inaccurate due to inability to obtain an accurate height measurement. (more)

Published articles:

Polfuss, M., Liebhart, J., Greenley, R.(2011). Relationship between overweight and risk-taking behaviors in adolescents, The American Journal for Nurse Practitioners. 15(1/2), 10-24.

Polfuss, M., Frenn, M (2011). Parenting Behaviors of African American and Caucasian Families: Parent and Child Perceptions, Associations with Child Weight and Ability to Identify Abnormal Weight Status. Accepted for publication in Journal of Pediatric Nursing.

Polfuss, M., Frenn, M. (2011). Parenting and Feeding Behaviors Associated with a Child's Weight Status in African American and Caucasian 9-15 Year Old Youths. Accepted for publication Western Journal of Nursing Research.

Michalsky, M, Pratt, G, Kramer, RE, Fullmer, MA, Polfuss, M, Porter, R, Ward-Begnoghe, W, Getzoff, EA, Dreyer, M, Stolzman, S, and Reichard, K. (2011): Developing Criteria for Pediatric/Adolescent Bariatric Surgery Specialty Centers. Pediatrics. 128(Supp 2), S65-S70.

Christopher Simenz, Ph.D., Clinical Associate Professor and Practicum Coordinator, Program in Exercise Science

Dr. Simenz is part of the administrative team for the Healthy Kids Healthy Communities Milwaukee Childhood Obesity Prevention grant with United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee. (more)

This is a program funded for $360,000 through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Chris is also a Co-investigator on a grant proposal submitted to Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Programs for Supporting Families for Health: A multi-disciplinary approach to engage community.

Martin St. Maurice, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences

Dr. St. Maurice's research is detailing the molecular level processes that contribute to the biochemistry of obesity and diabetes. (more)

His laboratory works at the interface of chemistry and biology, using the tools of protein engineering, kinetic analyses and X-ray crystallography to determine the molecular structure and function of metabolic enzymes. Our focus is on describing catalysis in a group of biotin-dependent metabolic enzymes. Several of these enzymes play important roles in fatty acid biosynthesis, fatty acid oxidation and glucose-mediated insulin release. (more)

Representative publications

St. Maurice, M., Reinhardt, L., Surinya, K.H., Attwood, P.V., Wallace, J.C., Cleland, W.W., Rayment, I. "Domain architecture of pyruvate carboxylase, a biotin-dependent multifunctional enzyme." Science (2007) 317:1076-1079

Jitrapakdee, S., St. Maurice, M., Rayment, I., Cleland, W.W., Wallace, J.C., Attwood, P.V. "Structure, mechanism and regulation of pyruvate carboxylase." Biochem J. (2008) 413:369-87

Lietzan, A.D., Menefee, A.L., Zeczycki, T.N., Kumar, S., Attwood, P.V., Wallace, J.C., Cleland, W.W., St. Maurice, M. "Interaction Between the Biotin Carboxyl Carrier Domain and the Biotin Carboxylase Domain in Pyruvate Carboxylase from Rhizobium etli." Biochemistry (2011) In Press,

Robert Topp, Ph.D. Professor and Associate Dean for Research, College of Nursing

Dr. Topp's research interest includes reducing and preventing childhood obesity through behavioral interventions, which increase physical activity and promote healthy dietary intake. (more)

He has completed a number of community based studies with interventions based on the Transtheoretical framework of health behavior change. One of his first studies in this area examined the efficacy of a nurse case management intervention on increasing physical activity and reducing body mass index among middle school African-American children. A second completed study examined an after-school program with 63 children in a predominantly African-American elementary school. Sixty percent of these children were overweight or obese. The intervention consisted of supervised after-school sessions three days per week. These sessions included two days of physical activity (flexibility, resistance and track-and-field training) and one day of 45-minute nutrition education modules based on the Transtheoretical Model of behavior change followed by 45 minutes of group physical activity. The findings of this study indicated that the intervention significantly improved the participant's cardiovascular fitness, body composition and dietary habits. Finally, Dr Topp's recent research trajectory has focused on physical activity and dietary intake of college-age individuals. He has developed and tested a 10-week intervention termed "Fit Into College". The purpose of these studies implementing the FIC intervention has been to determine if this 10-week program could improve physical activity, physical fitness, body weight, dietary intake, and perceptions of exercise and diet among college freshmen. The intervention incorporates cognitive and behavioral aspects of behavior change and are administered by fitness interns who are junior or senior college students enrolled in health-related majors. This intervention has been shown to result in the participants' increasing their physical fitness and their perceived benefits to engaging in exercise and decreasing their perceived barriers to engaging in exercise and a healthy diet.

Related Manuscripts

Topp, R., Edward, J.E., Ridner, S.L., Jacks, D.E., Newton, K., Kieffner, P., Woodall, D., & Conte, K. (2011). Fit Into College: A Program to Improve Physical Activity and Dietary Intake Lifestyles Among College Students. Recreational Sports Journal 35, 69-78.

Topp, R., Jacks, D., Wedig, R., Newman, J., Tobe, L., & Hollingsworth, A. (2009). Reducing risk factors for childhood obesity: The Tommie Smith Youth Athletic Initiative. Western Journal of Nursing Research (31)6, 715-730.

Crabtree, V., Moore, J.B., Jacks, D.E., Cerrito, P., Topp, R. (2010). A Transtheoretical, Case Management Approach to the Treatment of Pediatric Obesity. Journal of Primary Care and Community Health, 1(1), 4-7.

Bibeau, W., Moore, J.B., Caudill, P., Topp, R. (2008). Case study of a transtheoretical case management approach to addressing childhood obesity. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 23(2) 92-100.

Mason, H.N. Crabtree, V., Caudill, P., & Topp, R. (2008). Childhood Obesity: A Transtheoretical case management approach. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 23(5), 337-344.

Linda K. Vaughn, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences

Dr. Vaughn's research laboratory investigates the endogenous cannabinoid system; in particular, its role in the effect of stress on drug relapse. (more)

The brain makes its own endogenous cannabinoids which interact with cannabinoid receptors to cause effects on a number of physiological systems including anxiety and mood, control of food intake, learning and memory, reward and addiction, stress, analgesia and temperature regulation. We are particularly interested in three aspects of cannabinoid physiology: the role of endocannabinoids in stress-induced relapse in addiction, the role of endocannabinoids in anxiety, and the role of endocannabinoids in analgesia.

  1. The role of endocannabinoids in stress-induced relapse to cocaine seeking behavior. There is strong evidence that relapse to drug taking can be triggered by exposure to stress. The goal of this research project is to understand the mechanisms by which stress triggers relapse. Our approach is to use a preclinical mouse model of cocaine abuse and relapse in which stress-induced relapse is assessed according to the ability of brief exposure to a stressful stimulus to re-establish preference for a distinctive environment previously associated with cocaine reward after a period of drug abstinence/extinction. We have found that blockade of the CB1 cannabinoid receptor can effectively block stress induced reinstatement of previously established cocaine conditioned place preference in mice, suggesting that the use of cannabinoid antagonists may be an effective pharmacological tool to dampen the effects of stress to enhance return to drug seeking behavior. Our goal in this project is to advance the potential development of pharmacological tools by more firmly establishing the role of endogenous cannabinoid receptor signaling in stress-induced reinstatement.
  2. The role of endocannabinoids in anxiety. Approximately 40 million American adults ages 18 and older, in a given year, have an anxiety disorder. The neurobiology of anxiety, however, is not well understood. In humans, marijuana produces complex effects on anxiety. It is capable of causing both a reduction in anxiety and panic attacks. In animals, cannabinoid compounds (marijuana-like) also cause complex effects, but, in general, they cause a reduction in anxiety at low doses and increases in anxiety at high doses. Using a well-known mouse model of anxiety, the elevated plus maze, we have found that antagonism of a specific type of GABAA receptor inhibits the anti-anxiety effect of cannabinoid drugs. Our goal is to further characterize the interaction between the endocannabinoid system and these GABAA receptors. We believe that understanding this interaction may lead to a better understanding of the neurobiology of anxiety and more selective pharmacological treatments.
  3. Interaction between the endocannabinoid system and nitrous oxide - the role of endocannabinoids in analgesia. Our laboratory has been studying the role of nitrous oxide in analgesia and anxiety as well as the neurobiology of nitrous oxide withdrawal seizures for several years. Nitrous oxide has well known analgesic effects, effects that are largely mediated by interaction with the opioid system and which involve the retrograde transmitter nitric oxide. We have preliminary data that a cannabinoid antagonist can reduce the analgesic effect of nitrous oxide. Since the endocannabinoid system also acts as a retrograde messenger, interacts with the opioid system, and has analgesic effects, studying the interaction between these two systems may help us understand the neuronal control of pain pathways.

Recent publications

Vaughn LK, Mantsch JR, Vranjkovic O, Stroh G, Lacourt M, Kreutter M, Hillard CJ Cannabinoid receptor involvement in stress-induced cocaine reinstatement: potential interaction with noradrenergic pathways. Neuroscience, (in press).

Vaughn LK, Quock RM, Nitrous oxide antinociception and endogenous opioid peptides. Encyclopedic Reference of Pain (invited review), (in press).

Vaughn LK, Denning G, Stuhr K, de Wit H, Hill M, Hillard CJ, Endocannabinoid signalling: Has it got rhythm? Br J Pharmacol 160:530-543, 2010.