Kent State Psychology Professor Awarded for Neuropsychological Effects of Obesity and Heart Disease Research

John Gunstad, Ph.D., faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Kent State University since 2005, recently received an Outstanding Research and Scholar Award for his work on neuropsychological effects of obesity and heart disease.

The Outstanding Research and Scholar Awards recognize outstanding faculty members for their notable scholarly contributions that have brought acknowledgement to their fields of study and to Kent State.

Gunstad’s work and research as a clinical neuropsychologist focuses on the way our brains allow us to think, feel and behave in our everyday lives. His research allows him to understand how conditions like heart disease and obesity can also damage the human brain, affect memory and perhaps lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Gunstad says his research was inspired by the work he completed with patients facing various medical problems.

“They would often have trouble learning information that was important to taking care of themselves,” Gunstad explains. “Seeing those troubles encouraged me to try to find solutions.”

Gunstad is a principal investigator on several active National Institutes of Health grants totaling nearly $8 million. He has presented at more than 140 conferences and has authored more than 100 journal articles, and has been quoted on national media such as ABC, CBS, USA Today and more. In 2011, he was awarded the International Neuropsychological Society Early Career Research Award.  

“John is a pleasure to work with, very hands-on, extremely competent and bright. He can answer any question and advise on any research issue,” says Joel Hughes, associate professor of psychology, who worked with Gunstad on cognitive function in heart failure. “His work is vital and important to Kent State because he has gone to the center of scientific and public health problems and started answering important questions.”

Currently, Gunstad is researching the effects of weight loss on memory and other thinking skills over time. Since previous studies have proved that excess weight leads to poor outcomes to brain functions, he hopes to find that people who lose weight will show brain healing of the damage that has been done.

For more information about neuropsychology and the research that Gunstad does, visit the Department of Psychology’s website at or Gunstad’s online lab at