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Current Projects

Lab members are currently working on the following projects. Please click on the links for more information.

Weight History, Brain Activation to Food Cues and Eating Disorder Pathology
Weight Suppression, Dieting, and Bulimia Nervosa: A Biobehavioral Study
ENACT (Weight Loss Maintenance)
EEG and Appetite Study
College ED Prevention Effectiveness
Nutritrol: A Test of Nutritional Interventions to Enhance Weight Loss Maintenance

Weight History, Brain Activation to Food Cues and Eating Disorder Pathology (Follow-up to The Eating Disorder Study)

Eating disorders are a serious mental and physical health problem. Weight history and abnormal activation in brain reward and inhibitory areas appear to be related to ED psychopathology. This study will examine fMRI-assessed brain reward and inhibitory areas and weight history variables to predict, cross-sectionally and prospectively, ED psychopathology. Results will support development of novel treatments for these treatment-resistant disorders.

Abstract:
The cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) model of EDs has garnered substantial support but this framework does not sufficiently address two domains that appear to have a major impact on disordered eating. We call the first domain Weight History, which consists of premorbid body mass, the discrepancy between highest ever and current body weight (weight suppression, WS) and current BMI (which is often at very low, unhealthy levels). The second domain involves brain reward and inhibitory responses to palatable food cues. Evidence indicates that a continuum exists, with the poles anchored by the opposing responses to food cues of restricting anorexic patients and overweight binge eaters (with the former showing reward hypo-activation and inhibitory hyper-activation and the latter showing the reverse). Yet little is known about how these abnormal patterns contribute to ED psychopathology. We test the hypotheses that the two domains will be cross-sectionally related to eating disorder psychopathology, will predict future weight gain, ED symptomatology and course and that brain activation in reward and inhibitory regions of interest will mediate the predictive effects of Weight History variables on weight change and ED outcomes.These hypotheses will be tested among 96 ED individuals receiving treatment in any level of outpatient care. At baseline they will be assessed using standardized measures of Weight History and ED psychopathology and will undergo structural and functional MRI using a paradigm aimed at measuring their reward and inhibitory activation to food pictures in regions of interest. The measures of weight and ED symptomatology will be repeated at 3 and 6-month follow-ups.

Anticipated start date: April 2014

Weight Suppression, Dieting, and Bulimia Nervosa: A Biobehavioral Study (The Eating Disorder Study)

Project Type: Grant funded
Project Description:
Psychosocial models of bulimia nervosa (BN) emphasize the role of dieting as a proximal cause of binge eating and purging. Diet-induced long-term energy imbalance (weight suppression, or the difference between one’s highest-ever body weight and current weight) can be differentiated from a short-term energy imbalance (current dieting to either lose weight or avoid weight gain). This study examines biological and behavioral (e.g., binge eating and purging) correlates of weight suppression and current dieting in those with BN. The project will recruit 132 women (66 at Drexel University and 66 at Columbia University) meeting DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for BN. Participants will complete 14 days of ecological momentary assessment as well as measures of food consumption, resting energy expenditure, and metabolic and appetitive hormones. Participants will return for a 6-month follow-up visit to assess eating disorder symptoms and weight.
To see if you are eligible for this study, please email TEDS@drexel.edu or call 215-553-7171.
Project Began: Spring, 2012
Anticipated End Date: Spring, 2016

ENACT

Project Type: Grant funded
Project Description: This study compares 3 different treatments focused on weight loss and weight loss maintenance in overweight adults. Participants are randomly assigned to one of three conditions, all of which are designed to helpparticipants lose weight and keep it off long-term. The treatments vary in terms of how much they emphasize different skills that help people to lose weight. Over the course of the one-year intervention, participants attend weekly group-based sessions for 4 months, bi-weekly sessions for the next 2 months, and monthly sessions for the last 6 months. They then attend follow-up assessments at 6 and12 months post-treatment. Analyses will test whetherthere are any differences between the three conditions in degree ofweight loss maintenance obtained over the follow-up period.
Project Began: Fall, 2011
Anticipated End Date: Spring, 2016

EEG and Appetite Study

About the study: We are interested in understanding brain responses to images of food. If you choose to participate, you would be asked to come in for a total of three sessions, plus an optional one year follow up visit. Each session is held at Stratton Hall at the Drexel University Main Campus in University City, Philadelphia. The first visit (the screening visit) would last about 30 minutes and would let us know for sure whether or not you were eligible to participate. The second and third visit would include the actual study procedures and would last approximately 2 hours each. These second two visits are scheduled during the morning or afternoon, within about a week of each other.

During the first visit (the screening visit), your height and weight would be measured and you would be asked to complete a series of questionnaires asking you about your health, dieting, and weight history.

During visits two and three, you would participate in the EEG portion of the study. EEG (or electroencephalogram) is a safe, non-invasive, and routinely used device that allows us to record electrical brain activity. It involves wearing a stretchy elastic cap – almost like a shower cap – that contains a number of electrodes which make contact with your scalp. We would ask you to wear the EEG cap while completing a computer task that involves rating a series of food images.

The procedures during visit two and three are very similar. However, for one of these visits, you would be asked to eat 1 hour prior to your appointment. For the other visit, you would be asked not to eat or drink anything, besides water, for 6 hours prior to your appointment.

During the follow up visit your weight would be measured and you would be asked to complete a series of questionnaires again asking about your health, dieting, and weight history.

To compensate you for your time, you would receive:

  • $10 for screening visit
  • $30 or 4 extra credit points to a psychology course plus $10 for the EEG visits
  • $10 for one-year follow-up visit

Click here to find out if you might be eligible to participate.

College ED Prevention Effectiveness

Project Type: NIH R01 Grant
Project Description: This study evaluates the effectiveness of a dissonance-based eating disorder prevention program developed by Eric Stice, Ph.D. when delivered under ecologically valid conditions. Participants receive either a 4-session program designed to induce cognitive dissonance surrounding the thin-ideal or psychoeducational brochures about eating disorders and healthy body image. Participants are followed for two years after completion of the program or receipt of the brochures.
Project Began: Spring, 2009
Anticipated End Date: Spring, 2014

Nutritrol: A Test of Nutritional Interventions to Enhance Weight Loss Maintenance

Project Type: NIH R01 Grant
Project Description: This study compares 3 different treatments focused on weight loss and weight loss maintenance in overweight adults. Participants are randomly assigned to one of three conditions, all of which are designed to help participants lose weight and keep it off long-term. The treatments vary in terms of how they help participants to change the nutritional makeup of their diet. Over the course of the one-year intervention, participants attended weekly group-based sessions for 6 months and bi-weekly sessions for the next 6 months. They then attend follow-up assessments at 6 and 12 months post-treatment. 24-month follow-ups are currently underway. Analyses will test whether there are any differences between the three conditions in degree of weight loss maintenance obtained over the follow-up period.
Project Began: Fall, 2009
Anticipated End Date: Spring, 2014

Self-regulatory Control and Eating: A Neuroimaging Study of Bulimia Nervosa

Project Type: Grant funded (NIMH Fellowship; PI: Laura A. Berner, M.S.)
Project Description:
While considerable evidence suggests that individuals with bulimia nervosa (BN) struggle with self-regulation, no research to date has directly linked brain activity, self-regulatory deficits, and clinically meaningful behaviors in this chronic and increasingly prevalent psychiatric disorder. This study is the first to measure brain activity among women with and without BN during both general and eating-related self-regulatory control tasks. Participants complete semi-structured interviews and self-report measures followed by a functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIR) neuroimaging scan. Participants may also be eligible to complete a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan examining whole-brain activation associated with both general and emotion-specific self-regulation. A one-year follow-up visit will assess changes in eating behavior and weight. This research will allow us to better understand the brain mechanisms that may contribute to the development and maintenance of bulimia nervosa.