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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious and often fatal illnesses that are associated with severe disturbances in people’s eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. Preoccupation with food, body weight, and shape may also signal an eating disorder. Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Learn more about eating disorders.


Featured Studies

Featured studies include only those currently recruiting participants. Studies with the most recent start date appear first.

Online Relapse Prevention Study

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: June 14, 2021
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Eligibility: Ages 18–65, Does Not Accept Healthy Volunteers

The purpose of this study is to collect preliminary data on the feasibility and acceptability of the randomization of two relapse-prevention treatment conditions after discharge from intensive eating disorder (ED) treatment: an imaginal exposure therapy and a writing and thinking intervention. The second aim to test for (a) differences between the two treatments for the prevention of relapse and (b) preliminary change on clinical ED outcomes (e.g., ED symptoms, fears). The investigators further aim to examine the two treatments target fear extinction and if fear extinction is associated with ED outcomes. The investigators also plan to test if baseline differences in fear conditioning relate to change in ED outcomes across treatment.

The Role of the Circadian System in Binge Eating Disorder

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: January 15, 2021
Location: Mason, Ohio
Eligibility: Ages 18–50, Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Binge eating disorder (BED) shows prominent circadian features that suggest a delay in circadian phase, and preliminary evidence shows binge eating may be responsive to chronobiological interventions, implicating a circadian system dysfunction in its pathophysiology. What remains lacking, however, is comprehensive knowledge of the characteristics of circadian system dysfunction in BED, and whether this dysfunction represents a therapeutic target in BED. There is therefore a critical need to characterize circadian system dysfunction in BED, and evaluate it as a potential therapeutic target. Without such information, the understanding on the role of the circadian system in BED and its potential as a new therapeutic target will remain limited.

Leveraging Social Media to Identify and Connect Teens With Eating Disorders to a Mobile Guided Self-Help Mobile Intervention

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: December 18, 2020
Location: Saint Louis, Missouri
Eligibility: Ages 14–17, Does Not Accept Healthy Volunteers

Clinical or subclinical eating disorders (EDs) impact 10% of individuals in their lifetime and are marked by significant functional impairment, early mortality, chronicity, and emotional distress. ED symptoms often emerge in adolescence, with peak onset age in the teenage years. Early recognition and treatment of these devastating illnesses are needed to prevent long-term consequences and a chronic course. Most (80%) individuals with EDs, including teens with EDs (TwEDs), do not receive treatment. Due to major barriers to access and to the delivery of treatment for TwEDs, there is a need for a new model of service delivery that can identify and help TwEDs. We demonstrated our ability to harness social media to identify and efficiently recruit large numbers of TwEDs. Our team has successfully developed a guided self-help cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)-based mobile app for previous studies and have adapted this app to address the specific needs of TwEDs. In proposed study, we will test this updated mHealth intervention, which includes simplified language and tailored content relevant to adolescent issues and a social networking feature designed to facilitate group exchanges and coach-led weekly group sessions. This mHealth intervention will be investigated among 150 TwEDs recruited from Instagram/Facebook to test preliminary efficacy and feasibility of this mHealth intervention to improved eating disorder symptoms among TwEDs not currently engaged in treatment. We will also garnering feedback via a mixed methods approach on the efficiency, technical effectiveness, and satisfaction with mHealth intervention content and features. Participants will be randomized to one of 3 study arms, including a control group (standard referral to care), a group with access to the mobile app only, and a group with access to the mobile app plus social networking feature. We hypothesized that those with access to the mobile app intervention will have improved ED outcomes in comparison to the control group, and that those with access to the additional social networking feature will have the most improvement in ED symptoms out of all three groups.

Reward Re-Training: A New Treatment to Address Reward Imbalance During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: December 1, 2020
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Eligibility: Ages 18–65, Does Not Accept Healthy Volunteers

In the current study, the investigators will revise our existing 10-session group RRT treatment manual to specifically address the challenges in building social support and enhancing both momentary and sustained reward during the COVID-19 pandemic (Preliminary Aim 1). In months 2-18, the investigators will conduct a small pilot RCT that will randomize individuals to receive either 10-sessions of RRT (n=30) or supportive therapy (n=30), both delivered as group-treatments via videoconferencing software. The specific aims of the current study are to confirm the feasibility and acceptability of RRT for EDs (Primary Aim 1), evaluate the ability of RRT to engage critical targets including reward to day-to-day life activities, reward to palatable foods, social isolation, and loneliness (Primary Aim 2), and provide preliminary estimates of efficacy in reducing ED symptoms at both post-treatment and a 3-month follow-up (Primary Aim 3). the investigators will also evaluate the impact of RRT on secondary outcome variables including depression, substance use, and quality of life (Secondary Aim 1).

Self-Control in Bulimia Nervosa

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: September 18, 2020
Location: New York, New York
Eligibility: Females, Ages 18–35, Accepts Healthy Volunteers

This study examines the influence of acute fasting and eating on self-control in adult females with and without bulimia nervosa (BN). Specifically, the study team is investigating whether differences in behavior and brain activation in response to computer tasks after fasting and after eating a meal could help to explain the symptoms of bulimia nervosa. Data will be collected using questionnaires and a technology called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative

Study Type: Observational
Start Date: June 12, 2020
Locations: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia; Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand
Eligibility: Ages 15–99, Accepts Healthy Volunteers

The overarching intention of the Eating Disorder Genetics Initiative (EDGI) is to lay the foundation for all future genomic discovery in eating disorders--anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge-eating disorder (BED)--by exploring both genetic and behavioral factors. To do this, information will be collected from 4000 people who have provided DNA samples for the Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI) and the same information and DNA will be collected from an additional 16,000 people. The goal is to better understand eating disorders and how they relate to each other so that better treatments can be developed.

Parent Emotion Coaching for Anorexia Nervosa

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: June 8, 2020
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Eligibility: Ages 12–17, Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Family based treatment (FBT) is the evidence based treatment for pediatric anorexia nervosa (AN), but 50% of adolescents do not respond and the consequences for non-response are dire (e.g., 11.5% mortality rate). Expressed emotion and parental warmth are significant mechanisms of treatment outcome in adolescents with AN, which are not explicitly targeted by FBT. The current proposal is a parent emotion coaching skills group designed to augment FBT in the treatment of pediatric AN by arming high expressed emotion families with the skills necessary to implement FBT and improve treatment outcomes (e.g., weight restoration).

Optimizing Mindfulness and Acceptance Based Behavioral Treatment for Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: June 5, 2020
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Eligibility: Ages 18–70, Does Not Accept Healthy Volunteers

The current study will use a full factorial design to identify the independent and combined effects of four core MABT components when combined with standard behavioral treatment for BN and BED. The primary aim of the study will be to evaluate the independent efficacy of Mindful Awareness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Modulation, and Values-Based Decision Making on eating pathology (at posttreatment and at 6 and 12-month follow-ups). Secondary aims will be (1) to test target engagement of each MABT component, i.e., to confirm that each treatment component impacts both the variable which it targets and self-regulation and that improvements in these are associated with improvements in outcomes and (2) to test the hypotheses that the efficacy of each component is moderated by related baseline deficits in self-regulation (e.g. individuals with worse distress tolerance at baseline are most likely to benefit from conditions that include the Distress Tolerance component). A final exploratory aim will be to quantify the component interaction effects, which may be partially additive (because components overlap and/or there is diminishing return), fully additive, or synergistic (in that components may partially depend on each other).

Neurobiology of Bulimia Nervosa

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: February 24, 2020
Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Eligibility: Females, Ages 18–42, Does Not Accept Healthy Volunteers

This pilot study experimentally manipulates ovarian hormones to examine the direct impact of estrogen (E2) and progesterone (P4) on binge eating symptom burden and the behavioral reward response in women with bulimia nervosa (n=15). This is completed by taking medications that change ovarian hormone levels. This line of research could lead to the development of pharmacological interventions developed to target specific areas of the brain, brain receptors, or pathways identified to be involved in the mechanism underlying ovarian hormone change and binge eating.

Target Engagement of a Novel Dissonance-Based Treatment for DSM-5 Eating Disorders

Study Type: Observational
Start Date: July 10, 2017
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Eligibility: Females, Ages 18–34, Does Not Accept Healthy Volunteers

Most people with an eating disorder (ED) do not receive good treatment. The investigators have developed a new brief group treatment that is supposed to work by reducing how much women with an ED value the impossible thinness standard promoted by the media and how much they value/crave binge foods. The investigators want to test whether the treatment actually changes those two mechanisms using brain scan data, which is more objective than completing questionnaires and even interviews.

In the first phase of the study (R61), the investigators will compare women in the treatment versus those on a wait-list. If the investigators can show that the treatment "works" (does what the investigators think it does) compared to no active treatment (women will be allowed to seek and receive outside help but investigators will not provide it until after the wait-list), investigators will conduct the second phase of study (R33),where they will randomly assign women with an ED to either the new treatment or to a group treatment that represents what many college mental health clinics provide to their clients with ED.

Neural Basis of Meal Related Interoceptive Dysfunction in Anorexia Nervosa

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: October 31, 2015
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Eligibility: Ages 18–55, Accepts Healthy Volunteers

This study aims to identify the brain regions responsible for encoding cardiorespiratory 'interoceptive' sensations and determine whether they are dysfunctional in individuals affected by eating disorders, anxiety, depression, or brain injury. By evaluating the same interoceptive sensations across different human illnesses, the investigators hope to provide convergent evidence resulting in identification of core underlying neural processes, and to discern relative contributions in each condition.