HHP Graduate Research Spotlight - Wyatt Bunner

Name: Wyatt Bunner

Major: MS in Kinesiology, Concentration in Exercise Physiology

Faculty Mentor: Hu Huang, Ph.D.

Describe your current research project.

The arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus contains neuron subpopulations that respond to circulating hormones, such as leptin and ghrelin, as well as induce changes in body weight through changes in food consumption and energy expenditure. While much is known about the function of the neurons located in this area, less is known about how exercise modulates neuronal activity. My current research project is focused on how an acute bout of exercise affects the activation of the neurons in the arcuate nucleus, and whether this change in activation plays a role in their feeding behavior.

Why did you choose this particular topic?

Extensive research has taken place on the positive peripheral changes associated with increased amounts of exercise performed. Many of the predispositions to chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease can be reduced dramatically just by increasing the amount of exercise that one performs. As of date there has been little research on the contributions of the central nervous system to these exercise-induced health improvements. With the dramatic advancements in neuroscience that have taken place recently, I want to help bridge this gap in knowledge

What outcomes or impact do you hope your research will accomplish?

With this increased understanding of what occurs within the central nervous system during exercise, we could pave the way to new interventions that target these populations and mimic some of the positive effects exercise affords.

Do you feel that participating in such research will impact your job placement after graduation? If so, how?

Research often requires resourcefulness and creativity. By participating in research, I have become aware of my limitations, but I have learned how to overcome them. I feel that conducting research has also enhanced my critical thinking, time management, and communication skills. I hope to continue my education by pursuing my Ph.D., but I think these skills can be transferred to help with the acquisition of a job at any occupation.

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What has been your favorite part of your research?

I love that there is always something new to learn. I’m fortunate to work in a field that is consistently growing in what we are capable of observing.