Keynote Speakers

Three wonderful keynotes have accepted our invitation to present during the 9th Annual ARPH Conference.
We will soon publish the abstracts of their talks, but in the meantime you can find their names and expertise below.

Prof. Jens Blechert

Prof. Jens Blechert
Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Department of Psychology, University of Salzburg

Biography

Dr. Blechert studied psychology in Tübingen, Germany, and received his Ph. D. from the University Basel, Switzerland. After post-doctoral research in Freiburg (Germany), Stanford (USA), and Salzburg (Austria) he assumed an Assistant Professorship at Salzburg University in October 2011. He completed his habilitation in Psychology in November 2013.  He is currently employed as Full Professor for Health Psychology at the Department of Psychology and is affiliated with the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience in Salzburg.

He studies emotional eating and dieting in peoples’ lives using smart phones and questionnaires. He also investigates the underlying neural systems in the laboratory to determine which self-regulatory mechanisms might help people in making healthier food choices. Using these tools he and his team also try to understand the psychopathology of eating disorders like Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa.

Abstract

Eating & craving: Mechanisms and correlates in the brain and in everyday life

The prevalence of taste driven overeating in today’s environment is obvious and their implication for health clear. Homeostatic accounts fall short of fully explaining this behavior because food hedonics – e.g. the reward generated through indulging in attractive foods – have become an integral part of our modern lives. Yet, detailing the determinants of this hedonic overeating and developing new treatments is far from simple. First, because hedonic and homeostatic determinants interact and eating behavior is partly driven by implicit processes. Second, because individual differences (traits) are large and their effects can vary across time (states). Third, because current research instruments fail in capturing the large range of factors that control overt eating behaviors. Yet, progress is urgently needed because current treatments heavily capitalize on the capacity of people to consciously regulate their eating behaviors and emotions and their effectiveness is limited.

We approach hedonic overeating by using laboratory based studies that measure physiological and neural mediators of overeating on the one hand and ecological momentary assessment studies to sample people’s experiences around food in everyday life to get a full view on these behaviors. I will present studies that suggest that key factors that lead to overeating and unhealthy food choice include trait restrained eating (chronic interest in dieting), trait stress eating and trait emotional eating, trait and state food cravings, and eating disorder psychopathology. I will also report on some first attempts to derive novel, mechanisms oriented treatments from these research findings. I will conclude that novel treatments need to be adapted to the individual and take into account momentary states. I will further propose that novel, digital intervention approaches hold promise in this regard.

Prof. Michel Poulain

Prof. Michel Poulain
Emeritus Professor University of Louvain, Belgium  |  Senior Researcher Tallinn University, Estonia

Biography

Michel Poulain was originally skilled in astrophysics at University of Liège (ULg) he received a PhD in demography at Université catholique de Louvain (UCL). As demographer, he is specialized in Longevity studies. Currently emeritus professor at UCL, he is also Senior Researcher at the Estonian Institute for Population Studies at Tallinn University (Estonia). He has been President of the Société Belge de Démographie (1984- 1990) and later of the Association Internationale des Démographes de Langue Française (AIDELF) (1988- 2000). Involved in centenarian’s studies since 1992 he is active member of the International Database on Longevity (IDL) and the International Centenarian Consortium (ICC). He validated the age of several supercentenarians including Antonio Todde, Johan Riudavets and Emma Moreno, each of them holding the Guinness record of longevity. He also invalidated the age of numerous others including the famous supercentenarians of the Caucasus. In 2000, he was involved in validation the age of the numerous centenarians in Sardinia in cooperation with Gianni Pes, a Sardinian Medical Doctor. In this framework, he introduced the concept of Blue Zone when identifying an exceptional longevity area in the mountainous part of Sardinia. The original term Blue Zone was related to the blue pen that he used to shape the longevity area on the map of Sardinia. In two Sardinian villages, Villagrande and Seulo, he demonstrated with colleagues an exceptional situation where men live as long as women do, a unique situation in our modern societies. Thereafter in cooperation with Dan Buettner, he identified other Blue Zones in Okinawa, the Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica) and Ikaria (Greece). Michel Poulain delivered more than 100 speeches on exceptional longevity and Blue Zones on the 5 continents. He disseminated the lessons of the Blue Zones to both scientific and general public in a very comprehensive way. The search for new Blue Zones is going on and he is willing communicate his passion for this quest to everybody.

Abstract

Longevity and Blue Zones

Longevity is a phenomenon related to individuals (individual longevity) as well as to populations as a whole (population longevity). For a long time, longevity was a phenomenon studied exclusively at the individual level by identifying specific features among centenarians, whether these are genetic or biomedical, nutritional, cognitive or lifestyle-related. Nevertheless considering the complexity of the phenomenon there is still a long way to go to discover the keys to reach 100 years. During a meeting of researchers contributing to the International Database of Longevity in Montpellier in October 1999, the existence of an area of exceptional longevity was revealed in Sardinia. The trustworthiness of the Sardinian data was immediately doubted raising the need to validate the age of the presumed centenarians. The results of the validation were positive beyond all expectations. but the validation of the individual ages of the centenarians was not the most significant result of this investigation. In validating the centenarians it became clear that centenarians were not distributed randomly on the territory of Sardinia. A specific area of exceptional longevity and higher proportion of centenarians emerged in the most mountainous region of Sardinia. The first time that it was identified on a map, a blue marker was used and, since that time in March 2000, the term Blue Zone was used to identify the longevity hot spot. With the Blue Zone concept, the chance of discovering more explanatory variables for exceptional longevity is improved since the inhabitants probably have genetic characteristics in common, have experienced the same living conditions since their youth, share the same traditions, often eat primarily local products and live in the same environment,  physical as well as human.

The lessons gathered from the Blue Zones populations are summarized in 7 principles and might be transferred to our advanced and post-industrial societies in order to contribute to improving health and well-being? The characteristics of these people living in the Blue Zones, their lifestyle and environment, both physical and human, might be guidelines for our post-modern societies without being obliged to go and live as shepherd in a remote mountainous area. Today, the tendency to exclude old people from the society is growing. Health and loneliness are major problems in our societies, essentially in rural areas but also in major cities. Accordingly, it might be that what we observed in the Blue Zones can help to keep the seniors involved in the society and to help them to live better and longer.

Prof. John de Wit

Prof. John de Wit
Department of Interdisciplinary Social Science, Utrecht University

Biography

John de Wit (MSc, PhD) is professor of Interdisciplinary Social Science: Public Health at the Department of Interdisciplinary Social Science at Utrecht University. John is a social psychologist by training who has worked across the social sciences and public health and health promotion for over 30 years. Much of John’s work is related to the global HIV response and key populations.  An established global research leader in social aspects of HIV prevention in men who have sex with, he has extended his interests into a range of other domains of (community) health and wellbeing. His work encompass scholarly and strategic research; commissioned monitoring and evaluation; capacity building in key population health promotion program development, implementation and evaluation; and advisory and leadership roles. John’s current research programs in HIV prevention and sexual health promotion encompass cutting-edge social and behavioural science research into (potential) community trust in, demand for and (unintended) impacts of biomedical HIV prevention based on the use of antiretroviral drugs. He is also involved in research into the extent and correlates of various indicators of HIV-treatment failure in high income as well as high endemic country settings, with a view to optimizing treatment outcomes and epidemic responses. He is currently planning research, with HIV virology and clinical experts, into the social and behavioural science aspects of the rapidly expanding HIV cure research agenda, the next frontier in achieving zero new infections.

Abstract

Sexual health research: Implications for health psychology theory and research

Sexual health and wellbeing are predominantly studied from the perspectives of public health and sexology, while this important domain has mostly remained marginal within research and practice in health psychology. Nevertheless, an interdisciplinary, specialist field of research has emerged. How sexual behaviours that put people at risk for STI can be understood and which approaches are most effective in promoting sexual health and reducing sexual health risks remain critical questions for sexual health research that draws in and informs health psychology perspectives.

Social cognition models play an important role in research of sexual health behaviour, which has made important contributions to health behaviour theory. Importantly, the critical focus on understanding behavior above testing specific theories has necessitated, advanced and highlighted the importance theoretical eclecticism in research. Through an NIMH sponsored process this has furthermore resulted in a comprehensive integrative theoretical model, and has also advanced an evidence-based model specifying only key cross-theoretical factors. These achievements preceded and provide a backdrop to current efforts to make sense of the diversity of behavioral theory.

Sexual health behavior research has also highlighted the important but generally overlooked importance of context to health behaviour theory. A body of research has shown that sexual risk behaviours differ according to partner type, and more recent research has highlighted changes in behavior since the advent of effective HIV treatments. These findings underscore that sexual behavioural choice reflect a classic self-regulation dilemma, and the role of sexual desire and relational motives has been well-established. The self-regulation perspective has provided impetus for a more nuanced approach to understanding increases in sexual risk taking and infection risk, drawing on the moderating role of self-regulation capacity as well as self-regulation motivation.

In the interdisciplinary sexual health promotion domain important critiques of the health behaviour approach have also emerged. Notably, the much noted ontological critique of the dominant focus on individual level factors aligns with a more general recognition of the importance of a social-ecological perspective on health behavior. The longstanding epistemological concern with the dominance of quantitative deductive research is reflected in an upsurge of participatory research drawing on qualitative and mixed methods. These developments further highlight that far from being only an area of application, sexual health research continues to have significant relevance to further theory, research methods as well as impact of a health psychology perspective on sexual health. Expertise and experience from the sexual health domain offers exciting directions for ways of doing health psychology.