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:

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

The goal of this study is to understand 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

In this study, we are learning about 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. 

Neural Mechanisms of Food Choice

We aim to understand the neurobiology of Anorexia Nervosa, and why the illness is hard to treat. In this study, we are examining decision-making and the brain among individuals with Anorexia Nervosa and healthy individuals who do not diet. Participants will be asked to look at and make decisions about pictures of food in an fMRI scanner. An MRI uses a magnet to take pictures of the brain (there is no radiation in this study). The next day, participants have lunch in our eating lab. Individuals with Anorexia Nervosa will be asked to participate again at the end of treatment.

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.

Transcranial Magnetic Imaging (TMI)

In this study we are using TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) to activate a specific part of the brain to test whether this region is involved in decision making in anorexia nervosa.

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.