Childhood obesity is a critical and ongoing public health problem, with almost 25% of children overweight by age 4 years and 35% by adolescence. Once established, childhood obesity is difficult to treat and tracks into adulthood. The more years of a lifespan one is obese, the greater risk for obesity-associated comorbidities such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, asthma, hypertension, arthritis, and cancer. There is thus an urgent need to prevent and treat childhood obesity, but current prevention and treatment programs focused on diet and physical activity have limited efficacy. We posit that one reason for this is a lack of focus on the basic mechanisms of health behavior change, specifically self-regulation processes that may shape whether changes are adopted. The goal of the ABC Brain Games Study is to develop and test measures of childhood self-regulation targets and to evaluate associations with proximal processes known to be associated with later obesity and other health risks (e.g., obesogenic eating behavior, attention problems). Specifically, we are testing whether four brief interventions focused on improving self-regulation can change children's executive function (EF), food bias, emotion regulation, and future orientation as specific self-regulation targets that may be relevant for multiple health behaviors.


Alison L. Miller, PhD

Principal Investigator

University of Michigan

Center for Human Growth and Development

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Dr. Miller is a developmental psychologist who studies risk and resilience in children and families. Dr. Miller is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education (HBHE) in the UM School of Public Health. She was previously in the Department of Psychiatry (Division of Child and Family Psychiatry) at Brown Medical School. She is affiliated with Michigan’s Center for Human Growth and Development. Dr. Miller's research program focuses on how individual child factors, social relationships and contextual processes shape healthy development for children growing up in poverty and who have experienced adverse early life events. Self-regulation, managing stress and adversity, and the influence of social context are themes throughout her work. She also studies how the balance between biological, social-behavioral, and broader contextual influences can shift over time, and seeks to apply this developmental perspective to both inform our understanding of how developmental science can inform basic research on children’s health, as well as to improve health outcomes for young, high-risk children. Integrating a developmental science perspective is essential in order to address public health concerns that disproportionately affect low-income children. To achieve this goal, Dr. Miller collaborates with colleagues across disciplines and community partners to translate research findings into intervention approaches that may ultimately reduce health disparities and foster positive health and well-being outcomes for children and families.

Layla Esposito, PhD


Program Official

Christine Hunter, PhD, ABPP


Lead Project Scientist

1. Miller, A. L., Miller, S. E., & Clark, K. M. (2018). Child, Caregiver, Family, and Social-Contextual Factors to Consider when Implementing Parent-Focused Child Feeding Interventions. Current nutrition reports, 7(4), 303-309.

2. Miller, A. L., Gearhardt, A. N., Fredericks, E. M., Katz, B., Shapiro, L. F., Holden, K., ... & Lumeng, J. C. (2017). Targeting self-regulation to promote health behaviors in children. Behaviour research and therapy.

3. Miller, A.L. (2016). Neurocognitive processes and pediatric obesity interventions: Review of current literature and suggested future directions. In: S. Naar & B. Stanton (Eds.), Pediatric Clinics of North America, Special Issue on T1 Translation in Behavioral Interventions for Pediatric Obesity, pp. 447-458.