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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:


Anorexia Nervosa and the Cognitive Neuroscience of Food Choice

This study looks at decision making in patients with anorexia nervosa, especially around food choice. Subjects are asked to look at and make decisions about pictures of food.

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, individuals with Subthreshold Anorexia Nervosa, healthy individuals who diet, 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.

 Decisions About Food in Bulimia Nervosa

In this study we are interested in learning more about the decision making process in choosing food to eat. This study is completed on two separate days, the first of which the participant eats a standardized lunch, fills out some questionnaires, and does a computer task. In this task, the participant will be making decisions about food and then we randomly select one of the choices and the participant will eat that food as a snack afterwards. The second day we ask the participant to do the same computer task with a snack afterwards.

Inpatient Psychotherapy Study

We are examining what types of psychotherapy are most helpful for patients as they undergo weight restoration treatment for Anorexia Nervosa. In this study, patients who are receiving care on our inpatient unit will also receive 4 weeks of one of two types of psychotherapy. One treatment focuses on the transition to the inpatient unit. The other treatment focuses on changing routines or habits that have become part of the eating disorder. Each participant will receive 12 sessions over 4 weeks, starting after the first week on the unit.  Research participation also includes interviews and questionnaires to help us understand the eating disorder symptoms, and a lunch meal in our eating lab (once before treatment and once after treatment).

Emotions and Behavior: A Study of Bulimia Nervosa using fMRI

This imaging study, conducted with our collaborators at Weill Cornell Medical College, uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study certain characteristics of bulimia nervosa. Participants are asked to perform computer tasks that assess memory and attention, as well as to respond to specific cues on the screen while in a fMRI scanner. The study is performed at Weill Cornell Medical Center and lasts approximately 3-3 1/2 hours.

Brain Imaging and Eating Behavior in Healthy Kids

In the Healthy Kids Study, we are trying to learn more about how children make food choices about the food they eat. The study takes place on two different days, always outside of school hours. Kids in the study answer questions about foods they like or don't like, play computer games, and eat snacks in our Eating Behavior Laboratory. Some will also be asked to have an MRI brain scan and eat lunch in our laboratory on a second day. We offer prizes throughout the study and also offer gift card compensation for participating in the first study day.

Cognitive Neuroscience of Weight Loss:

This study aims to understand decision making and eating patterns that promote successful weight loss, and involves eating some meals at our clinic, making decisions about pictures of food, and brain imaging procedures. We are recruiting: 1) individuals who have lost weight and kept it off, 2) current dieters, and 3) non-dieting healthy controls. Compensation (up to $200) will be provided for participation.

Columbia University Center for Metabolic and Weight Loss Surgery

This multi-site study assesses psychosocial aspects of adults who undergo bariatric surgery. A second study is analyzing the relationship between body weight and cognitive functioning before and after surgery.

Center for Adolescent Bariatric Surgery (CABS)

This longitudinal study examines whether pre-surgery psychological factors affect surgical outcome and long-term psychological functioning.

Weight Suppression, Dieting and Bulimia Nervosa: A Bio-behavioral Study

This study is looking at the biology of dieting and weight in individuals with bulimia nervosa. Participants will be asked to come in to the clinic on three separate days during a 3 week period and once for a follow-up visit 6 months later. Study measurements will include a breathing test which measures resting metabolism, a DXA scan which measures bone density and body composition, and a fasting blood draw.

After the 3 weeks of assessments, participants will be offered one of two types of treatment: 20 sessions of outpatient cognitive behavioral therapy over 4-5 months, with medication if appropriate or inpatient treatment, which consists of a 4-6 week hospitalization at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

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.



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