The Psychobiology of Eating Disorders
Dr. Halmi's research in the Eating Disorders Program covers four major areas: treatment, eating behavior, biological mechanisms, and diagnosis-epidemiology.
- Treatment. The Eating Disorder Program research staff is testing the first cognitive-behavioral treatment manual for the outpatient treatment of anorexia nervosa in collaboration with Stanford and the University of Minnesota. This manual can also be used for maintenance therapy to prevent relapse of anorexia nervosa. With the same collaborative groups, the research staff are testing two types of therapy for bulimia nervosa. These therapies are a specific cognitive-behavioral treatment for bulimia nervosa and interpersonal therapy. The research staff is also testing the effectiveness of several medications in the treatment of bulimia nervosa.
- Eating Behavior. In the eating laboratory, Dr. Halmi is studying perceptions of hunger, satiety, and taste in eating disorders patients. The research staff is studying whether disturbances in these patterns may be a marker for relapse. The response of eating disorder patients to foods of different macronutrient contents is another area under study in the laboratory.
- Biological Mechanisms. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa have familial aggregations. With a sib-pair analysis technique, Dr. Halmi is in a multi-center collaboration to investigate linkage analysis (400 markers) and candidate gene polymorphisms of serotonin and dopamine receptors in these disorders. She is also studying leptin function and the second messenger response to serotonin agonists in eating disorder patients.
- Diagnosis-Epidemiology. A very high prevalence of Axis I and Axis II psychiatric disorders are comorbid with eating disorders. Dr. Halmi is investigating the influence of these comorbid disorders on the outcome of the eating disorders. The ego-dystonic obsessive-compulsive features and the ego-syntonic preoccupations and rituals of eating disorder patients are being studied with two recently developed scales for those measures.