PhD Candidate, University of Nottingham


Eating disorders take more lives than all mental disorders, and hospitalizations are increasing at alarming rates in women, men, and children. I investigate subtle ways people process different types of information to see how this may predict their eating disorder levels. I do this by mainly using two technologies, eye-tracking and fMRI. Eye-tracking is a device that is mounted to a computer screen, and by sending an infrared light into the eye, is able to track exactly where a person looks, for how long, and patterns of processing information. fMRI is able to measure the functional activation of the brain with different types of stimuli. You know when you wiggle your toes, how the blood rushes into that are being used? Well, depending on what one is doing or thinking about, the blood also rushes into the areas of the brain that are being activated. fMRI is able to pick up this activation, and locate where the activation is, and according to which types of information the person is seeing or processing. In addition to using these two methods to understand the underlying mechanisms of eating disorder, I also develop current, relevant assessment applications to assess and predict these key mechanisms in a visual way. In a nutshell, I use and develop different types of new ways to investigate which underlying mechanisms play a part in maintaining and developing an eating disorder. I hope my work will go toward reducing deaths and increasing both prevention and recovery of eating disorders.


Risk Factors That Predict Future Onset of Each DSM-5 Eating Disorder: Predictive Specificity in High-Risk Adolescent Females.

Abstract: Because no single report has examined risk factors that predict future onset each type of eating disorder and core symptom dimensions that crosscut disorders, we addressed these aims to advance knowledge regarding risk factor specificity. Data from 3 prevention trials that targeted young women with body dissatisfaction ( = 1,272; age = 18.5, = 4.2) and collected annual diagnostic interview data over 3-year follow-up were combined to identify predictors of subthreshold/threshold anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), binge eating disorder (BED), and purging disorder (PD). Negative affect and functional impairment predicted onset of all eating disorders. Thin-ideal internalization, body dissatisfaction, dieting, overeating, and mental health care predicted onset of subthreshold/threshold BN, BED, and PD; positive thinness expectations, denial of cost of pursuing the thin ideal, and fasting predicted onset of 2 of these 3 disorders. Similar risk factors predicted core eating disorder symptom onset. Low BMI and dieting specifically predicted onset of subthreshold/threshold AN or low BMI. Only a subset of factors showed unique predictive effects in multivariate models, likely due to moderate correlations between the risk factors ( = .14). Results provide support for the theory that pursuit of the thin ideal and the resulting body dissatisfaction, dieting, and unhealthy weight control behaviors increase risk for binge/purge spectrum eating disorders, but suggest that youth who are inherently lean, rather than purposely pursuing the thin ideal, are at risk for AN. Impaired interpersonal functioning and negative affect are transdiagnostic risk factors, suggesting these factors should be targeted in prevention programs. (PsycINFO Database Record

Pub.: 07 Oct '16, Pinned: 26 Aug '17

Changes in weight and body image over time in women with eating disorders.

Abstract: This study examined the changes in body image and weight in young women with an adolescent eating disorder, relative to women without an eating disorder (noED).Three diagnostic groups, anorexia nervosa (AN; n = 10), bulimia nervosa (BN; n = 27), and binge eating disorder (BED; n = 42) and three comparison groups (noED; n = 659 each) were compared on body mass index (BMI) and self-reported current body size, ideal body size, and weight dissatisfaction. Dependent variables were examined 2 and 1 year before the onset, the onset year, and 1 and 2 years after the onset of the eating disorder in a model that was adjusted for ethnicity and BMI.BMI was lower in the AN group at all time points except 2 years before onset. AN girls evidenced a significantly stronger relation between BMI and current self-ratings and weight dissatisfaction than noED girls. BMI did not differ between the BN group and the noED group. Girls with BN reported larger current body sizes and greater weight dissatisfaction across all time points. The BED group had higher BMI than the noED group across time. BED girls reported greater current body size ratings and weight dissatisfaction than the noED girls. Girls with AN, BN, or BED did not differ from the noED girls on body ideal ratings.Body weight seems to influence perception of body size more so for girls with AN than for noED girls. No support was found for an accelerated weight gain over time for BN. Weight may increase over time for the BED group relative to the noED group, but larger studies are needed. Across all three groups, ideal body size appears to be unrelated to diagnostic status. Rather, the risk for developing an eating disorder appears to arise from size overestimation and related weight dissatisfaction.

Pub.: 13 Oct '04, Pinned: 26 Aug '17

Social comparison and its relation to body dissatisfaction in bulimia nervosa: evidence from eye movements.

Abstract: To determine the role of social comparison for body dissatisfaction in bulimia nervosa (BN). Previous research suggested that exposure to media content idealizing thin body shape decreases body satisfaction, particularly in women with eating disorder symptoms. This might be due to the negative outcome of social comparisons with media models, and women with eating disorders might be particularly susceptible because they engage in upward social comparison more frequently than women without these symptoms. However, no study has yet explored both upward (i.e., toward more attractive others) and downward (i.e., toward less attractive others) social comparisons and their impact on body dissatisfaction in a clinical eating disorder and healthy controls.We presented patients with BN (n = 20) and healthy controls (HC) (n = 22) with slides comprising a digitized image of their own body alongside comparison bodies with higher and lower body mass indices (BMIs) while measuring their eye movements.As hypothesized, patients with BN fixated longer on comparison bodies with lower BMIs than controls, with the reverse pattern for high BMI bodies. This gaze pattern suggests that upward comparisons were more prevalent in the BN group. Furthermore, upward comparisons were related to a drop in body satisfaction in the BN group.Disadvantageous social comparison strategies might be related to body dissatisfaction and therefore to the maintenance of BN.

Pub.: 08 Aug '09, Pinned: 26 Aug '17

Selective Visual Attention Towards Oneself and Associated State Body Satisfaction: an Eye-Tracking Study in Adolescents with Different Types of Eating Disorders.

Abstract: The development of eating disorders is associated with a body-related attentional bias. Although eating disorders are especially prevalent in adolescence, so far, no study has analyzed gaze patterns and state body image in response to viewing one's own body in youth. To fill this gap, the present study aimed to examine a body-related attentional bias and state body satisfaction in adolescents with various forms of eating disorders. Girls with anorexia nervosa, restrictive type (AN-R; n = 30), anorexia nervosa, binge eating/purging type (AN-BP; n = 26), bulimia nervosa (BN; n = 22), clinical controls with anxiety disorders (n = 20) and healthy controls (n = 43) looked at photographs of their own and a peer's body, while their spontaneous eye movements were recorded. After stimulus presentation, state body satisfaction and individual attractiveness ratings for areas of the presented stimuli were assessed. An analysis of variance revealed that participants of all subgroups showed an attentive preference for unattractive areas of one's own body. Girls with AN-R attended significantly longer to unattractive body areas than both control groups and significantly shorter to attractive body areas than healthy controls. State body dissatisfaction was more prominent in all eating disorder subgroups, with significantly lower scores in BN compared to AN-R. In general, the higher the state body dissatisfaction, the stronger was the deficit orientation on one's own body. The attentional bias towards unattractive body areas, which is most pronounced in AN-R, indicates that interventions aiming to modify distorted attention might be promising in the prevention and treatment of eating disorders in adolescence.

Pub.: 31 Jan '17, Pinned: 26 Aug '17

Gene by Cognition interaction on stress-induced attention bias for food: effects of 5-HTTLPR and Ruminative Thinking.

Abstract: Stress is often found to increase the preference and intake of high caloric foods. This effect is known as emotional eating and is influenced by cognitive as well as biological stress vulnerabilities. An S-allele of the 5-HTTLPR gene has been linked to decreased (brain) serotonin efficiency, leading to decreased stress resilience and increased risks for negative affect and eating related disturbances. Recently it has been proposed that a cognitive ruminative thinking style can further exacerbate the effect of this gene by prolonging the already increased stress response, thereby potentially increasing the risk of compensating by overeating high palatable foods.This study was aimed at investigating whether there is an increased risk for emotional eating in high ruminative S/S-allele carriers reflected by an increased attention bias for high caloric foods during stress.From a large (N=827) DNA database, participants (N=100) were selected based on genotype (S/S or L/L) and ruminative thinking style and performed an eye-tracking visual food-picture probe task before and after acute stress exposure. A significant Genotype x Rumination x Stress-interaction was found on attention bias for savory food; indicating that a stress-induced attention bias for specifically high-caloric foods is moderated by a gene x cognitive risk factor.Both a genetic (5-HTTLPR) and cognitive (ruminative thinking) stress vulnerability may mutually increase the risk for stress-related abnormal eating patterns.

Pub.: 18 Jul '17, Pinned: 26 Aug '17

An etiological model of disordered eating behaviors among Brazilian women.

Abstract: The Tripartite Influence Model posits that parents, peers and media influences mediated by internalization and appearance social comparison are predictors of body dissatisfaction, a key risk factor for eating disorders. However, the Tripartite Influence Model has not been tested in Brazil where the people are known to have high levels of body image and appearance concerns. This study aimed to test an adapted Tripartite Influence Model of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating behaviors among Brazilian women. A sample of 741 undergraduate students (Mage = 23.55 years, SD = 4.09) completed measures of sociocultural influences, internalization of body ideal, social appearance comparison, body dissatisfaction, muscularity dissatisfaction, disordered eating and body change behaviors. Structural equation modeling analyses indicated that the proposed etiological model for Brazilian women has good fit indexes (χ(2)(2064) = 6793.232; p = 0.0001; χ(2)/gl = 3.29; CFI = 0.82; PCFI = 0.79; RMSEA = 0.056 [IC90% = 0.053-0.057]). Parent and media influences were related with both internalization and social comparison, while peer influence with social comparison. A full mediation model was found, with both internalization and social comparison contributing to body dissatisfaction. Finally, body dissatisfaction was associated with disordered eating behaviors. The findings inform the importance of considering cultural aspects that influence body image and eating behaviors, and highlight the validity of the proposed etiological model for Brazilian women, that can be used for research and clinical purposes.

Pub.: 10 May '17, Pinned: 25 Aug '17

Alterations in brain structures related to taste reward circuitry in ill and recovered anorexia nervosa and in bulimia nervosa.

Abstract: The pathophysiology of anorexia nervosa remains obscure, but structural brain alterations could be functionally important biomarkers. The authors assessed taste pleasantness and reward sensitivity in relation to brain structure, which may be related to food avoidance commonly seen in eating disorders.The authors used structural MR imaging to study gray and white matter volumes in women with current restricting-type anorexia nervosa (N=19), women recovered from restricting-type anorexia nervosa (N=24), women with bulimia nervosa (N=19), and healthy comparison women (N=24).All eating disorder groups exhibited increased gray matter volume of the medial orbitofrontal cortex (gyrus rectus). Manual tracing confirmed larger gyrus rectus volume, and volume predicted taste pleasantness ratings across all groups. Analyses also indicated other morphological differences between diagnostic categories. Antero-ventral insula gray matter volumes were increased on the right side in the anorexia nervosa and recovered anorexia nervosa groups and on the left side in the bulimia nervosa group relative to the healthy comparison group. Dorsal striatum volumes were reduced in the recovered anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa groups and predicted sensitivity to reward in all three eating disorder groups. The eating disorder groups also showed reduced white matter in right temporal and parietal areas relative to the healthy comparison group. The results held when a range of covariates, such as age, depression, anxiety, and medications, were controlled for.Brain structure in the medial orbitofrontal cortex, insula, and striatum is altered in eating disorders and suggests altered brain circuitry that has been associated with taste pleasantness and reward value.

Pub.: 18 May '13, Pinned: 25 Aug '17

Abnormal reward circuitry in anorexia nervosa: A longitudinal, multimodal MRI study

Abstract: Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a debilitating illness and existing interventions are only modestly effective. This study aimed to determine whether AN pathophysiology is associated with altered connections within fronto‐accumbal circuitry subserving reward processing. Diffusion and resting‐state functional MRI scans were collected in female inpatients with AN (n = 22) and healthy controls (HC; n = 18) between the ages of 16 and 25 years. Individuals with AN were scanned during the acute, underweight phase of the illness and again following inpatient weight restoration. HC were scanned twice over the same timeframe. Based on univariate and multivariate analyses of fronto‐accumbal circuitry, underweight individuals with AN were found to have increased structural connectivity (diffusion probabilistic tractography), increased white matter anisotropy (tract‐based spatial statistics), increased functional connectivity (seed‐based correlation in resting‐state fMRI), and altered effective connectivity (spectral dynamic causal modeling). Following weight restoration, fronto‐accumbal structural connectivity continued to be abnormally increased bilaterally with large (partial η2 = 0.387; right NAcc‐OFC) and moderate (partial η2 = 0.197; left NAcc‐OFC) effect sizes. Increased structural connectivity within fronto‐accumbal circuitry in the underweight state correlated with severity of eating disorder symptoms. Taken together, the findings from this longitudinal, multimodal neuroimaging study offer converging evidence of atypical fronto‐accumbal circuitry in AN. Hum Brain Mapp, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Pub.: 08 Jun '16, Pinned: 25 Aug '17