Soyoung Q Park Heads New Department of Decision Neuroscience at DIfE

The psychologist and brain researcher Soyoung Q Park has accepted the joint appointment to a W3 professorship of the DZD partner, the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke (DIfE) and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. She heads the new Department of Decision Neuroscience and Nutrition at DIfE and thus strengthens the research focus "Biological Foundations of Food Preferences and Eating Behavior".

Prof. Soyoung Q Park. Source: David Ausserhofer/DIfE

Park and her team are investigating the relationships between nutrition, brain function and metabolism. The scientists are investigating how food choices are made in the brain and how they can be altered. For example, the way in which a product is presented plays a major role.

On the other hand, the department investigates how what people eat controls their decision-making and consumer behavior. "As an integral part of everyday life, food can initiate many different biochemical processes and even influence our actions and thinking: It is possible for one and the same person to make very different choices depending on the previous meal," said Park.

Making the right choice
Previous research has shown that factors such as reward, stress and nutrition influence what decisions a person makes. It is also known that trying to implement dietary recommendations in the long term often fails. It is still largely unclear which mechanisms are responsible for this. For a long time it was assumed that food choices are controlled exclusively by the body, for example through certain processes in the digestive tract. However, recent studies show that the mind – the psyche and the brain – play a crucial role. "Our aim is to use psychological mechanisms to find ways to positively influence eating behavior and food choices," said the department head. "We are proud and pleased to welcome Professor Park as a senior scientist at DIfE. The investigation of decision-making processes is important because it addresses the currently most urgent questions: Why do we eat what we eat? And how could we succeed in eating a healthy diet over the long term?" said Professor Tilman Grune, scientific director of DIfE.

Brief Biography: Professor Soyoung Q Park
From 2003 to 2008, Soyoung Q Park studied psychology at Technische Universität Berlin. After graduating, she received a four-year scholarship from the Berlin School of Mind and Brain of Humboldt University and received her doctorate from Freie Universität Berlin. After successfully completing her doctorate, she was responsible for various neuroeconomic research projects at the Institute of Economics at the University of Zurich as a postdoctoral fellow from 2012 to 2014. In the spring of 2014, she accepted an appointment to a W2 professorship at the University of Lübeck and became head of the newly founded "Psychology" program.There at the Institute of Psychology she headed the "Social Psychology and Decision Neuroscience Group " for almost five years.