Susan Carnell, Ph.D.

Headshot of Susan Carnell
  • Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Research Interests

Neuroimaging; Child obesity; Obesity; Eating behavior; Eating disorders; Appetite; Genetics; Parent feeding; Stress; Gut hormones more


Susan Carnell received her BA in Experimental Psychology from the University of Oxford and completed a PhD in Health Psychology focusing on parental feeding style and children's eating behavior at University College London. She was then awarded an ESRC/MRC Interdisciplinary Post-doctoral Research Fellowship, in which she used behavioral genetic data from a national twin study to examine genetic and environmental influences on child appetite and obesity. Following this, she moved to the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center at Columbia University where she spearheaded studies of circadian and stress-related variation in neural (fMRI) and hormonal responses to food and food cues among obese and lean adults with and without binge eating. Here she was also awarded a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence award to investigate neural responses to food cues in obese and lean adolescents varying in familial and genetic obesity risk. In 2013 she became faculty at the Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, where she leads a program of research investigating eating behavior and obesity throughout the lifespan, including neuroimaging studies in infants, children and adolescents. more


  • Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes



  • Ph.D.; University College London (England) (2005)
  • B.A.; University of Oxford (England) (2000)

Additional Training

  • University College London, London, England, 2007, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health Health Behaviour Research Center; Columbia University, New York City, New York, 2013, New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center, St. Luke''s-Roosevelt Hospital

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Why do some people develop obesity while others remain lean? We propose that individuals differ in appetite-related characteristics that manifest early in life, show genetic influence, and interact with environmental factors (e.g. family feeding practices) to predict eating behavior and weight.

To understand more about the character and origins of these characteristics (e.g. food cue responsiveness, satiety sensitivity), my lab uses a range of methods including behavioral tests, self- and parent-report questionnaires, genotyping, hormonal assays, and neuroimaging techniques (fMRI, MRI, PET).

Ongoing research projects include investigations of appetite and body weight in infants, children, adolescents and adults, including studies of eating behavior in anorexia nervosa, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, cystic fibrosis, and individuals undergoing bariatric surgery.


Lab Website: The Appetite Lab

Clinical Trials

We are conducting a study of the brain and appetite in children (9-11 y old). The study involves a blood draw and MRI scan, 2 urine collections, body composition measurements (height, weight, waist, body composition), questionnaires, buffet meals, games, and prizes. Children and their families earn $345 for completing 1 screening + 3 study visits spread out over 1 year. If interested, please email [email protected].

Selected Publications

Carnell S, Benson L, Papantoni A, Chen L, Huo Y, Wang Z, Peterson BS & Geliebter A (2022) Obesity and acute stress modulate appetite and neural responses in food word reactivity task. PLoS One. 2022 Sep 28; 17(9):e0271915. PMID 36170275.

Carnell S, Grillot C, Ungredda T, Ellis S, Mehta N, J Holst & Geliebter A (2017) Morning and afternoon appetite and appetite hormone responses to meal and stress challenges in obese individuals with and without Binge Eating Disorder. International Journal of Obesity. Epub ahead of print 2017 Dec 13. PMID: 29235554

Carnell S, Benson L, Chang K, Wang Z, Huo Y, Geliebter A & Peterson BS (2017) Neural correlates of familial obesity risk and overweight in adolescence. Neuroimage, 159, 236-247. PMID: 28754348

Dinkevich E, Leid L, Pryor K, Wei Y, Huberman H & Carnell S (2015) Mothers' feeding behaviors in infancy: do they predict child weight trajectories? Obesity, 23(12):2470-2476. Epub Nov 5. PMID: 26537027

Carnell S, Haworth CMA, Plomin R & Wardle J (2008) Genetic influence on appetite in children. International Journal of Obesity, 32, 1468-1473. PMID: 18679413

Carnell S & Wardle J (2007) Measuring behavioural susceptibility to obesity: validation of the Child Eating Behaviour Questionnaire. Appetite, 48, 104-113. PMID: 16962207

Contact for Research Inquiries

600 N. Wolfe Street
Phipps 300
Baltimore, MD 21287 map
Phone: 410-955-7192
Fax: 410-614-3676

Email me

Activities & Honors


  • New Investigator award finalist, International Association for the Study of Obesity, 2010
  • Ethan Sims Young Investigator award finalist, The Obesity Society, 2010
  • Student Researcher Award for PhD work on parental feeding style and child obesity, UK Association for the Study of Obesity, 2005


  • Society for Study of Ingestive Behavior - Board Member
  • The Obesity Society

Professional Activities

  • Blogger,

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