Erica Schulte has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is an assistant research professor at The Drexel University Center for Weight, Eating, and Lifestyle Science (known as the WELL Centre). This is an interdisciplinary clinical research center that aims to develop, test, and create new behavioral and technological solutions to the problems of obesity and disordered eating.
Schulte earned her doctoral degree in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan and a two-year postdoctoral research fellowship with the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania. She completed a predoctoral internship at the Medical University of South Carolina and received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Kansas. Shulte’s program of research applies a cutting-edge perspective to understanding overeating and obesity by examining 1) which foods or food attributes (e.g., sugar) may be reinforcing in a manner that directly drives overeating, 2) whether core mechanisms of addictive disorders (e.g., withdrawal) may contribute to eating-related problems for vulnerable individuals, and 3) how food addiction may be a useful construct for individualized interventions. Schulte has investigated these empirical questions using a multi-method approach, including neuroimaging, scale development, food consumption paradigms, and self-report.
Her research interest is the clinical utility of food addiction as a unique phenotype of disordered eating, the addictive potentials of ultra-processed foods, overlapping mechanisms implicated in substance-use disorders and eating and weight disorders, assessment of addictive-like eating behaviors, and treatment development for eating and weight disorders. She is passionate about finding solutions and validating ultra-processed food addiction.
Erica’s inspiration throughout her career has been listening to individuals express significant shame about their eating behavior and body weight because they attribute it to personal weakness or a lack of willpower. Her mission is to help reduce and remove this self-blame by highlighting the direct roles that ultra-processed foods play in motivating eating behavior. These foods have been created by a multi-billion-dollar industry to be highly rewarding in a way that disrupts natural hunger signals and promotes cravings. Erica is developing a research program to inform new clinical interventions and public policies that address the influences of the food environment.