National Eating Disorders Association

Eating Disorders Research Paves the Way for Treatment and Prevention

NEDA Staff

This past October, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) hosted two research events. One was a sponsorship of the Eating Disorders Research Society (EDRS) Translational Research Satellite at the Westin Hotel co-chaired by Dr. Walt Kaye and Dr. Evelyn Attia on Thursday, October 27th. The other event, located at the NEDA headquarters, was held on the following Friday and highlighted advances in eating disorders research and NEDA’s role in making this important research possible.

Interested in learning more? Check out our event recaps below! 

Eating Disorders Research Society (EDRS) Translational Research Satellite at the Westin Hotel: "Using insights into the neurobiology of behavior to develop more effective treatments for eating disorders"

The NEDA-hosted satellite session convened clinicians, scientists, and members of advocacy organizations for a rare opportunity to collaboratively explore new ideas about developing more effective treatments for eating disorders. 

Sophia Amaro, NEDA Sr. Director of Development, said: “Research is important to NEDA because the individuals and families we serve deserve to be free of these devastating illnesses. Together, with our powerful community of advocates, we hope to advance the field of eating disorders with innovative clinical research that will lead to effective treatments and sustained recovery for those suffering from eating disorders.”

The key tenets of this program were to explore how we can develop more effective research for eating disorder treatments, to discuss the limitations on eating disorder research funding in comparison to other fields of study, to explain the costs of research and types of grants, and to present emerging research from several eating disorders investigators and the implications for new treatment approaches. 

Presenters discussed the key areas for eating disorder innovation, how such innovations can be funded, the lack of critical mass of ED researchers and limited expertise on brain and behaviors, traditional (i.e., new medication and psychotherapies) and innovative approaches to treatment, and special problems inherent to eating disorder research (e.g., malnutrition, development and puberty, etc.). 

  • Walter Kaye, MD, professor of psychiatry at University of California San Diego (UCSD) and program director at the UCSD Eating Disorders Treatment and Research Center, discussed an overview of issues and new treatment approaches of altered reward and inhibition in those who struggle with eating disorders. 
  • Martin Paulus, MD, Keynote speaker, scientific director and president of the Laureate Institute for Brain Research, discussed his work regarding research domain criteria and neuroscience-based approaches to develop better treatments for mental disorders.
  • Joanna Steinglass, MD, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the Columbia Center for Eating Disorders, talked about changing habits in terms of mechanism-based treatment development in eating disorder patients.
  • Kamryn T. Eddy, PhD, co-director of the Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program of Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of psychology in the department of psychiatry at Harvard, discussed integrating fMRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and endocrine data across adolescent eating disorder (ED) presentations to inform the conceptualization of neurodevelopment maintaining mechanisms in ED patients. 
  • Sarah Fischer, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at George Mason University, talked about the integration of neuroimaging and Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) in studying the impact of acute stress on individual differences in reward processing for those suffering from Binge Eating Bulimia Nervosa (BN). 
  • Robert Turton, speaker and PhD student, discussed whether bulimia nervosa eating disorder patients should attend food-specific inhibition training. 
  • April Smith, PhD, director of research on Eating Disorders and Suicidality Laboratory and assistant professor of psychology at Miami University, discussed her research evaluating whether changing implicit evaluations of eating related stimuli reduces eating disorder symptoms. 
  • Trevor Steward, PhD student, discussed enhancing emotion regulation capabilities in eating disorder patients through Bio and neurofeedback. 
  • Carrie McAdams, MD, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, discussed attributional biases as a neurocognitive target in patients struggling with Anorexia Nervosa.
  • Mark Chavez, Ph.D., Chief of the Eating Disorders Research Program, Division of Translational Research, NIMH, confirmed that there are funds available for eating disorders research through NIMH and he encouraged scientists to apply and think outside of the box with their proposals. Impressed with the research discussed that morning, he said that he is looking forward to seeing where the future of eating disorders research leads. 

Research Luncheon at the NEDA headquarters

Members of the NEDA’s Research Advisory Council joined other eating disorders researchers for a lunchtime discussion to learn more about research advances in the eating disorder field. Additionally, the NEDA Feeding Hope Fund awarded recipients provided updates on projects in the innovative treatment and eating disorders prevention categories.  

The event began with an introduction by NEDA staff members Sophia Amaro, NEDA Sr. Director of Development, and NEDA Board Member and Research Advisory Council Member Heather Hower, MSW, LICSW, ACSW, QCSW.

Afterwards, NEDA Senior Board Advisor for Research and Research Advisory Council Chair, Walt Kaye, MD, and NEDA Board Member and Research Advisory Council Member Evelyn Attia, MD, discussed an overview of current research areas and the need for research innovation. 

Proceeding the aforementioned keynote speakers, Eric Stice, PhD, a member of the NEDA Prevention Advisory Council, presented a report on eating disorders prevention research regarding the potential of evidence-based programs. 

Finally, an update was provided on leading research in the field currently funded by NEDA and the Feeding Hope Fund. The eight researchers who presented are as follows: 

  • S. Bryn Austin, ScD: The Economic Case for Eating Disorders Prevention and Early Detection: A Comparative Cost- Effectiveness Analysis of Six Intervention Strategies

  • Daniel LaGrange, PhD: Family-Based Treatment Without Borders: Utilizing Telemedicine to Deliver Family-Based Therapy (FBT)

  • Denise Wifley, PhD: Harnessing Technology for Training Therapists to Deliver Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

  • Christina Wierenga, PhD: An Innovative Family Based Treatment for Adults with Anorexia Nervosa Using Insights from Neurobiology

  • Joanna Steinglass, MD: Changing Habits in AN: A Novel Approach

  • Adrienne Juarascio, PhD: Outside the Therapy Office: Enhancing Integrative Cognitive-Affective Therapy with Ecological Momentary Interventions to Improve Treatment for Bulimia Nervosa

  • Allegra Broft, MD (presented by Evelyn Attia, MD): Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation as a New Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa

  • James Lock, MD, PhD: Treating Avoidant/ Restrictive Food Intake Disorders (ARFID) Using Family-Based Treatment: A Randomized Controlled Crossover Trial 

The event wrapped up with questions from attendees and a final word discussing beacons of hope for the future of eating disorders research. With more funding for research and treatment, we hope to one day see a world without eating disorders.