Research Studies

Our Center has been at the forefront of research in the field of eating disorders for over 30 years.

Research can encompass many things: structured interviews, questionnaires, computer tasks, observations in specific settings, and imaging modalities all constitute research. These activities are done to try to answer questions about the behaviors, biology, and neurobiology of these illnesses. Participation provides a valuable contribution to the field, and helps inform the future directions.

Current Research Includes:

Optimizing Relapse Prevention and Changing Habits (REACH+)

Anorexia Nervosa is a serious illness and relapse rates are high. We have shown that behavioral routines get stuck/entrenched. Our newest treatment development research aims to help patients with AN minimize unhelpful routines and develop more healthful, recovery-oriented behavior after they have completed initial treatment on our inpatient unit.  This study aims to evaluate this new outpatient treatment. Interested participants who have achieved weight restoration on the inpatient unit at NYSP will meet with clinicians for outpatient treatment for 6 months to work on changing behaviors, maintaining healthy eating, and maintaining a healthy weight after leaving the hospital.

The Role of Self-Evaluation and Social Stress in Adolescents with Eating Disorders

Self-esteem in adolescents is a critical area to understand right now, as mental health challenges are increasing. Among teen girls, adolescence is a time when eating disorders often begin, and a time when social experiences play a big role. Our research aims to understand the links between eating disorders and how teens think and feel about themselves by looking at what is happening in the brain. We are enrolling teens with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder as well as healthy peers. Participants will be asked to play some games in the lab while we collect EEG monitoring. In addition, we invite participation in our eating lab. We also find out more about life outside the lab using a smartphone app.

The Role of Dopamine in Anorexia Nervosa During Adolescence

Anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric illness with neurobiological underpinnings. Our research aims to understand whether there are disturbances in the neurotransmitter dopamine which may help us understand some of the symptoms of the illness and may help identify new ways of thinking about treatments. In this study, we use a particular type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that can measure the concentration of dopamine in specific brain regions, termed neuromelanin-sensitive MRI. We are enrolling teens with anorexia nervosa and healthy teens. Participation includes an MRI scan, as well as questionnaires and computer tasks.

Longitudinal Assessment of Neural Circuits in Adolescents with Anorexia Nervosa

In this study, we are looking at how the brain changes over time in teens with and without anorexia nervosa. Participants will be asked to answer questionnaires, look at and make decisions about pictures of food in an fMRI scanner, and eat dinner in our eating lab. An MRI uses a magnet to take pictures of the brain (there is no radiation in this study). There are three time-points in this study over the course of two years. We offer prizes throughout the study and compensation at each time-point. 

Discrimination Learning in Anorexia Nervosa

People with anorexia nervosa frequently experience anxiety which may impact their ability to learn new things. This study aims to understand this by evaluating how outcomes of computer tasks motivate learning in adults with and without anorexia nervosa. Participants will be asked to answer questionnaires, complete computer tasks, look at and make decisions about pictures in an fMRI scanner, and eat lunch in our eating lab. An MRI uses a magnet to take pictures of the brain (there is no radiation in this study). The study occurs over the course of three days. 

Gains and Losses in Anorexia Nervosa

Eating patterns are especially difficult to change for those with anorexia nervosa. In this study we are learning about the behavioral and neural underpinnings of decisions about food bylooking at the brain systems associated with gains and losses in learning. We are learning how these systems work when food is involved, for people with and without anorexia nervosa. The study day includes computer games, questionnaires, and an fMRI scan. 

Memory and Decision Making in Anorexia Nervosa

Do patients with anorexia nervosa use the same brain mechanisms to make decisions as those without the illness, and just arrive at different choices? Or are these processes fundamentally different in some way? To answer this question, we ask individuals with anorexia nervosa – as well as healthy peers – to make some decisions while looking at pictures of food in an MRI scanner. Working closely with our cognitive neuroscience colleagues, we use measurement of eye movements as well as brain activation patterns during neuroimaging to understand how these decision-making processes change with illness, and to test whether this relates to actual eating patterns.

Risky Decision-Making in Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder

People with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder engage in risky behaviors more often than people without those disorders. In this study, we aim to understand why this is and understand how risky decision-making may influence treatment outcomes in this population. Study participants will be asked to complete two computer games that measure risky decision-making and fill out some questionnaires. Participants with bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder will be offered outpatient treatment and asked to complete computer games and brief symptom reports during treatment. Compensation for time is provided, and participants can earn a bonus based on their choices during the computer games. 

Long Term Course of Eating Disorders

The purpose of this study is to gather information about how various eating and weight problems change over time among patients with eating disorders who receive inpatient treatment at the Eating Disorders Research Unit. Participants are contacted once per year for up to ten years to participate in a brief phone interview and will be asked to complete and return several self-report forms. Interviews and self-report forms ask about eating and weight as well as psychological and physical health.

If you are interested in serving as a control subject for a study, please contact us as well. 
You may also contact us via this link if you are interested in participating.