Research

Imagine you or a loved one was diagnosed with an eating disorder. Sadly, there are few treatment centers for eating disorders – particularly in rural areas or mid-sized cities – and there is a lack-of-training, which means that many doctors and psychologists are not able to make accurate diagnoses. Even if your diagnosis was accurate, the current diagnostic system for eating disorders does not inform prognosis (treatment outcomes). One of the only prognostic indicators is how well you or your loved one respond to treatment in the first four weeks. Yet, there are few assessment tools to help your doctor monitor your progress in treatment, particularly for men, youth, and racial or ethnic minorities.

Our current work is largely focused on addressing these issues. Ultimately, the critical question that drives our assessment and classification work is: Can we develop improved diagnostic systems and assessments to better predict important clinical outcomes and match patients to the best treatments?

Diagnosis and Classification Study

The purpose of this study is to improve the classification of disordered eating and to identify predictors of stability and change of disordered eating. Participants complete a set of standardized interviews and self-report questionnaires that ask about eating behaviors, concerns about shape and weight, personality, interpersonal relationships, and general psychological distress.

If you are interested in participating, you must be between the ages of 14 and 99 and have some disordered eating behaviors; you must not have a diagnosis of intellectual disability or neurological disorder, and you must be fluent in English (both reading and writing). Complete the screening survey in this link if you think you might qualify.

Veterans Study

Military veterans are at higher risk of engaging in disordered eating compared to the civilian population. They are subject to strict standards for weight, body shape and physical fitness, and if they don't meet these requirements, they have to take part in a weight loss program. If they don't meet this program's objectives, they can be discharged from the military. While this set of the population is at higher risk, current eating disorder screening tools are focused on how specifically women manifest disordered eating behaviors.

With funding provided by the United States Department of Defense, we will invite a nationwide sample of veterans to complete surveys that will allow us to develop a screening tool. Afterwards, we will invite another group of veterans to test our screening measure and 

interview them regarding the barriers and obstacles they have to face when seeking mental health services. Check out our most recent press release on this study.

AN fMRI Study

Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is a serious condition associated with numerous medical complications, psychiatric comorbidity, and the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Currently the best tool for predicting prognosis for AN is "rapid response" (i.e., weight gain over the first four weeks of treatment). Yet, there are no reliable predictors of rapid response at baseline.

The goal of this study is to identify neuro-markers that indicate early risk for poor treatment outcome using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a noninvasive brain-imaging technique. If you are interested in participating or would like more information about this study please email us at eatstudy@ku.edu.

FuEL Study

FuEL stands for Function of Unhealthy Exercise in everyday Life, and the purpose of this study is to further understand the relations between exercise and uncomfortable emotions (i.e. guilt, shame, sadness) that have been previously 

associated with individuals suffering from eating disorders who engage in unhealthy exercise behaviors. We utilize novel technologies like actigraphs that track participants' physical activity for one week, and a free mobile phone app for participants to respond to surveys.

To be eligible, you must be a woman between the ages of 18-64 and experience some symptoms associated with disordered eating, including frequent or intense exercise. You must also own a smartphone. If you think you maqualify to participate, you can complete the survey in this link to confirm your eligibility.

Other Collaborative Research

1) Predictors of diet quality and weigth gain in adolescents, with Dr. Joseph Donnelly at the University of Kansas Medical Center

2) Pilot test of reward and stress response using fMRI in women with bulimia nervosa, with Dr. Laura Martin at the Hoglund Brain Imaging Center

3) Collaborations in several studies with Dr. Sara Gould at Children's Mercy Hospital

4) Development of a mobile phone app with Dr. Christopher Cushing at the University of Kansas

5) Application of network analysis to eating disorders, with Dr. Michael Vitevitch at the University of Kansas

6) Collaborations in studies looking at food addiction with Dr. Tera Fazzino, the Associate Director of the Cofrin Logan Center for Addiction Research and Treatment