Nudge-it: Understanding obesity

Nudge-it is an multi-disciplinary European research project studying new ways of establishing and reinforcing healthy eating habits. Join us to learn about eating, appetite and obesity.

About The Course

Obesity is a huge health, social and economic problem affecting millions of people globally. Currently, it’s a problem without a solution - diets don’t work, drug therapies are poor, and surgical solutions are only offered to those suffering serious ill-health. In addition, there are many misconceptions about appetite, diet and exercise, and about the best ways to treat or prevent obesity.

This course will be taught by partners in the EU-funded research project Nudge-it ( This project brings together dozens of experts in neurobiology, experimental psychology, functional brain imaging, behavioural economics and computational modelling from 16 universities in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, the US and New Zealand. The overall aim is to better understand decision-making in food choice and to contribute to improving public health policy.

In this course we will discuss the facts and misconceptions around obesity, and the gaps in the scientific knowledge. We’ll discuss key physiological and psychological concepts around the brain’s control of appetite and body weight, and reflect on the power of these systems - how they make weight gain easy and weight loss hard. We will describe new approaches to the treatment and prevention of obesity, and give you the opportunity to reflect on your own knowledge and assumptions around the causes of obesity.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Will I get a certificate after completing this class?

Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

2. Do I earn University of Edinburgh credits upon completion of the course?

No. The Statement of Accomplishment is not part of a formal qualification from the University. However, it may be useful to demonstrate prior learning and interest in your subject to a higher education institution or potential employer.

3. What resources will I need for this class?

We will provide a list of ‘starter’ resources for each week, which will be fully available for free online. As an ability to critically assess information is a key aspect of the course, you will also be asked to do your own research on the internet to find additional resources.

4. What will I get out of taking this class?/What are the learning outcomes of this course and why should I take it?

We aim to encourage you to reflect on the evidence around appetite and obesity, and also recognise the gaps in our knowledge. This will let you critically assess some of the common myths and misconceptions in this important topic. We will also encourage you to learn about the brain pathways that control our eating behaviours and how these can be influenced by the environment. Lastly, we’ll discuss some of the most promising avenues that may help us reverse or prevent obesity.

5. Can I contact the course instructors directly?

The course instructors will actively participate in the discussion forum. Please post your questions and comments there. By taking this approach, ideas can be shared throughout the participant community.

Recommended Background

There is no prerequisite to take this course. No prior knowledge is required.