Department of Psychology
Aron Weller received a PhD in Psychology from the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA. His postdoctoral training was at the Psychiatry Dept., Cornell University Medical College, and (during a sabbatical year) at the Psychiatry Dept., Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Since October 1989, he is at the Psychology Department, Bar Ilan University, starting as Lecturer and from 2001 onward as Professor. He co-established undergraduate and graduate interdisciplinary programs in the Brain Sciences at Bar Ilan, and served as head of this program and as head of the University’s Interdisciplinary Studies Unit. His lab is in the Gonda Brain Research Center.
His research team’s theme is epigenetic: searching for neurochemical mechanisms at sensitive developmental periods that may "program" and underlie the risk for unhealthy development.
Current research examines, separately: a) emotion regulation, using animal models of depression and anxiety, and b) intake and body-weight regulation, using animal models of binge eating, overeating, dieting and obesity in individuals. Recent focus: Epigenetic mechanisms of trans-generational obesity and “resistance” versus “susceptibility” to obesity and to binge eating.
Annual Activity Report, March 2018
In collaboration with Dr. Noam Meiri of the Vulcani Institute we have found a number of epigenetic mechanisms/markers that are candidates for underlying overeating and obesity. We have been using a rat model of high-fat-diet (HFD)-induced obesity. Specifically, we found DNA hypermethylation and post-translational histone modifications and the cross talk between them, on regulatory segments of the genes for Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) and the melanocortin 4 receptor to be associated with overweight and dieting. Furthermore, we have found that epigenetic markers on the POMC promotor can be transferred from parents to their offspring.
Currently we are searching for epigenetic mechanisms/ markers underlying resistance vs. susceptibility to diet-restriction-induced weight loss in individuals. In order to explain epigenetic heritability we are studying the possible transfer of the epigenetic markers through germ cells.
These studies have the potential to produce biological markers for susceptibility/resistance to disease, and for individual potential to respond to treatment, which can then be examined for relevance as biomarkers in rat, then in human, blood tests. These markers are tied closely to underlying neurobiological mechanisms, directing the efforts for individual-tailored treatment.