Randall Sakai, chronic social stress, and the research tradition of Curt Richter

Gerard P. Smith, Gary J. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This paper describes Randall Sakai's professional career from graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, through postdoctoral work at Rockefeller University, and to being an independent investigator at the University of Cincinnati. He was fortunate in having Alan Epstein, Bruce McEwen, and Eliot Stellar as mentors. Early in Sakai's graduate work, Epstein and Stellar introduced him to Curt Richter, the legendary investigator at Johns Hopkins. This early introduction to Richter and his tradition of research was crucial for Sakai's scientific development. We review Sakai's research with the Visible Burrowing System (VBS) at Cincinnati. This was the most original of Sakai's research interests. His experimental proficiency in the investigation of salt appetite, food intake, and obesity led him to focus on the effect of chronic social stress on food intake, body composition, metabolism, and the distribution of fat. He and his colleagues, many of them his students, were able to demonstrate that chronic social stress produced changes in metabolism and fat distribution that were characteristic of an incipient metabolic syndrome that could lead to obesity. This did not solve the problem, but showed the way to further investigation. This opening up of problems to experimental investigation was a hallmark of Richter's research. Thus, Sakai worked in the mainstream of the research tradition of Richter. He did what he revered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-6
Number of pages5
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Chronic social stress
  • Curt Richter
  • Fat distribution
  • Mentoring
  • Metabolic stress
  • Research tradition
  • Subordinate stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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