Dissertation Defense: Alaina Pearce

Candidate Name: Alaina Pearce

Major: Psychology

Advisor: Chandan J Vaidya, Ph.D.

Neurocognitive Deficits in Pediatric Obesity

In the United States, 20% of adolescents suffer from obesity (body mass index—BMI—above the 95th percentile) and 8% of adolescents suffer from severe obesity (BMI 120% above the 95th percentile). Obesity carries increased risk for medical conditions with high morbidity (e.g., cardiovascular disease, diabetes), poor sleep health, and psychopathology. In children, these risks are accompanied by lower academic achievement and worse social (e.g., discrimination) and psychological (e.g., self-esteem) outcomes. When examining cognition functioning, deficits in executive function (i.e., working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility), motivation (i.e., reward sensitivity and reward-related decision making), and memory have been shown to be particularly relevant for the regulation of obesogenic behaviors (i.e., behaviors that contribute to risk for obesity). Simultaneously, comorbidities of obesity, such as chronic inflammation, may have deleterious effects on the neural functioning subserving these cognitive processes. The three studies included in this dissertation were conducted with the goals of 1) determining the scope and specificity of cognitive deficits in pediatric obesity; 2) identifying potential confounding (intelligence, socio-demographic characteristics) and mediating (medical and psychopathological) factors related to cognitive deficits in pediatric obesity; and 3) examining the neurological underpinnings of observed cognitive deficits in pediatric obesity.

Friday, November 17, 2017 at 10:00am to 12:00pm

White-Gravenor Hall, 311
37th and O St., N.W., Washington

Event Type

Academic Events, Dissertation Defense


Georgetown College, Psychology, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences



Open to the public and the press?


Event Contact Name

Nancy Swartz

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