When we speak about food, we often borrow terms from the lexicon of addiction. We say that we can’t help ourselves when we’re around a cookie tray or a dessert menu, that we open a bag of chips and eat them compulsively, that going to the movies triggers a craving for buttered popcorn or even more indulgent treats from the lobby, and that—yes—we’re positively addicted to a certain snack or drink. Even though speaking about our relationships to certain foods in this way feels natural enough, thinking about these foods in the same way as substances that are more commonly understood to be addictive may not.

But why not? That question first caught the attention of clinical psychology Ph.D. candidate Erica Schulte (M.S. ’15) when she was pursuing a research topic as an undergraduate at the University of Kansas.

“I found a research group that was doing some neuroimaging research, looking at reward processes of the brain,” she says. “The specific study was recruiting individuals who either had binge-eating disorder or were smokers, and they were both completing the exact same task. I was essentially interested in this overlap between eating problems and addictive disorders, and clearly the researchers felt that there was something going on where there were shared mechanisms.”

Read the full article at the Rackham Graduate School Website.