Max Planck Florida research group leader Dr. Sarah Stern has been awarded the 2021 One Mind – Donna Friedman Rising Star Eating Disorders Research Award. The One Mind Rising Star Awards identify and fund pivotal, innovative research on the causes of and cures for brain health conditions by supporting the most promising emerging leaders in the field of neuropsychiatry. The $300,000 grant supports Dr. Stern’s work developing new behavioral models to identify the neural circuits underlying maladaptive feeding behaviors and help define molecular targets for therapeutic interventions.
Eating disorders involve learned behaviors, with symptoms exacerbated by associative cues. Dr. Stern hypothesizes that a specific brain circuit (connecting the insular cortex and the central amygdala) controls feeding based on learned information. This circuit may contribute to the development of maladaptive feeding behaviors, including those relevant for eating disorders. Using chemogenetics, transcriptomics, and in vivo calcium imaging techniques, Dr. Stern will investigate this brain circuit and test the hypothesis with behavioral tasks that measure anorexia-like behaviors in mice.
Sarah Stern is a Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience. Her research group focuses on elucidating the neural circuits underlying maladaptive feeding behaviors that lead to obesity and eating disorders. Prior to this, Dr. Stern was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Rockefeller University in the laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, where she used her expertise in memory and rodent behavior to study the neural circuitry of how environmental cues lead to non-homeostatic overconsumption, as well as the intersection of stress and feeding relevant to Anorexia Nervosa.
Dr. Stern earned her PhD. in 2014 from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the laboratory of Dr. Cristina Alberini, where she studied the role of Insulin and IGF-II on memory consolidation and enhancement, as well as the role of astrocytic lactate signaling on long-term memory formation and consolidation. Prior to that Dr. Stern conducted research with Dr. Joseph LeDoux as an undergraduate student at New York University, where she graduated magna cum laude, with honors. In 2020 she was named a “STAT Wunderkind” a designation for rising young scientists who are making a difference through innovation. In addition, Dr. Stern is the recipient of numerous honors including a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award and a NARSAD Young Investigator Award.