Current Research Studies

We have a number of active studies that are currently recruiting individuals with eating disorders, women who have recovered from eating disorders, and individuals who have never had an eating disorder. Please contact us to learn more about the studies in which you may be eligible to participate at edresearch@ucsd.edu.

The Role of Cannabidiol (CBD) in Regulating Meal Time Anorexia Nervosa: Safety, Tolerability and Pharmacokinetics

About the study

No studies of cannabidiol (CBD) have focused on Anorexia Nervosa (AN). Dose, side effects, tolerability, acceptability of pure CBD in anorexia nervosa (AN) must be established. The current study is an important first step in the investigation of CBD for AN. Cannabis products have been recently legalized in many states, and CBD in particular has been shown to reduce anxiety. Therefore, CBD may represent a promising new treatment for AN. The endocannabinoid system is involved in the regulation of functions relevant to eating disorders. Furthermore, data suggest that eating disorders are associated with alterations of the endocannabinoid system. CBD may be particularly beneficial in decreasing anxiety in AN via its action at serotonin receptors. The impact of CBD on eating behavior and weight in AN must be determined. The current study seeks to explore these hypotheses.

WHAT YOU’LL BE ASKED TO DO

The study includes at first screening and assessment visits as well as a blood draw and EKG. If you qualify, then the main part is a 3 week trial of cannabidiol (CBD, brand name Epidiolex) or placebo. You would get three dosages (increasing every week) and have a once a week assessment and blood draw visit.

WE’RE RECRUITING

  • Adult females who have a current diagnosis of anorexia nervosa or atypical anorexia nervosa and have a duration of illness greater than 6 months

ELIGIBLE PARTICIPANTS

  • Adult females between ages 18-40 years old
  • Individuals may not currently be taking any psychoactive medication

Virtual Body Image Program for Men

About the study

The purpose of this study is to investigate what body concerns young men encounter as well as different ways that we can improve the ways men relate to their bodies.

WHAT YOU’LL BE ASKED TO DO

This study involves interviews, self-report questionnaires, and participation in two body image groups for men. The study is longitudinal, and we will track body image concerns at four time points across a 6-7 month period.

COMPENSATION

Participants are compensated up to $70 for completing all of the study procedures

WE’RE RECRUITING

  • Young adult males ages 18 – 30, who live in California

ELIGIBLE PARTICIPANTS

  • Male
  • Live in California
  • Speak English

Interoceptive Processing and Learning in Anorexia Nervosa

About the study

The purpose of this research study is to investigate the areas of the brain that are involved in decision-making and learning in adolescent girls with anorexia nervosa by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The fMRI is a standard procedure that uses powerful magnets to take pictures of the brain.

WHAT YOU’LL BE ASKED TO DO

This study involves interviews, self-report questionnaires, blood work, fMRI scan, a computer task, and 2 weeks of EMA (ecological momentary assessment, which are in-the-moment brief surveys that would be sent to the participant’s phone.)

COMPENSATION

Participants are compensated up to $250 for completing all of the study procedures.

WE’RE RECRUITING

  • Female adolescent individuals ages 13 – 17 who are currently diagnosed with restricting, binge, or purging subtype of anorexia nervosa.

ELIGIBLE PARTICIPANTS

  • Right-handed
  • Individuals who are not currently pregnant or have metal devices, implants, or braces.

Anorexia Nervosa EEG & fMRI Study

About the study

Our study uses EEG and fMRI technology (safe, non-invasive imaging techniques) to look at brain differences in children and adults who are underweight with anorexia nervosa or who are healthy weight controls. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) techniques use powerful magnetic fields that allow a scanner and a computer to take very detailed pictures of the structure of the brain and brain activation.

WHAT YOU’LL BE ASKED TO DO

Participation in this study includes questionnaires about mood, eating, and behavior, a diagnostic interview, 1 fMRI study visit, and 1 EEG study visit. At the fMRI study visit, participants spend 1 hour in the scanner. During the scan, participants will complete a taste task. At the EEG study visit, participants spend 1 hr - 1.5 hours in the EEG headset. During the EEG, participants complete a taste task and monetary game.

COMPENSATION

Participants are compensated up to $265 for completing all of the study procedures.

WE’RE RECRUITING

  • Female adolescents and young adults who have a current diagnosis of anorexia nervosa as well as females who are at a healthy weight with no major medical history.

ELIGIBLE PARTICIPANTS

Inclusion Criteria for Anorexia Nervosa
  • 11 - 29 years old
  • Right-handed
  • Meets diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa, restricting subtype
  • Has a current Body Mass Index less than 18 kg/m2
Inclusion Criteria for Healthy Controls
  • 11 - 29 years old
  • Right-handed
  • Healthy body weight between 90-110% (dependent on age and height)
  • No major medical illness or medications (birth control is allowed)
Individuals who are currently pregnant or breastfeeding or have metal devices, implants or braces are not eligible to participate.

Anorexia Nervosa Brain Imaging Study

About the study

This research uses fMRI to investigate how dopamine medications affect reward processing in the brain. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) techniques use powerful magnetic fields that allow a scanner and a computer to take very detailed pictures of the structure of the brain and brain activation.

What you'll be asked to do

Participation in this study includes questionnaires about mood, eating and behavior, a diagnostic interview, EKG and blood labs and 3 brain imaging study visits. At each of the brain imaging study visits participants spend one hour in the scanner. During the scan, participants will complete 2 tasks – a learning task and a taste task. At the beginning of each day participants will be administered one of two dopamine medications or placebo.

COMPENSATION

Participants are compensated up to $525 for completing all of the study procedures.

WE’RE RECRUITING

  • Females who have a current diagnosis of restricting type anorexia nervosa and are currently underweight as well at as controls who are at healthy weight with no major medical history or history of an eating disorder.

ELIGIBLE PARTICIPANTS

Inclusion Criteria for Anorexia Nervosa
  • 18-29 years old
  • Right-handed
  • Meets diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa, restricting sub-type
  • Has a body mass index (kg/m2) less than 18.0
Inclusion Criteria for Healthy Controls
  • 18-29 years old
  • Right-handed
  • Healthy body weight between 90-110% average body weight since puberty
  • Regular monthly menstrual cycle (if applicable)
  • No major medical illness or medications (birth control is allowed)
Individuals who are currently pregnant or breastfeeding or have metal devices, implants or braces are not eligible to participate.

Exploring the Safety and Efficacy of Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy for Anorexia

About the study

This research study explores the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of psilocybin, a psychedelic, for individuals with anorexia nervosa. Participants will undergo medical and psychological screening. If eligible, they will receive a single 25 mg dose of psilocybin along with psychotherapeutic support, which includes preparation and integration sessions surrounding the experience. In recent years, a growing number of studies have demonstrated the safety and preliminary efficacy of psilocybin in clinical trials for a range of psychiatric illnesses including treatment resistant depression, obsession compulsive disorder, addiction, and anxiety. We are excited to extend this research to anorexia nervosa.

What you'll be asked to do

The study involves a maximum of 7 visits over a duration of 4-8 weeks. Participation includes diagnostic interviews, medical tests to ensure eligibility, self-report assessments, a psilocybin dosing visit, and therapeutic support with therapists trained in eating disorders and psychedelic treatment before and after the experience. Vital signs and four blood samples will also be taken to ensure participants’ safety and tolerability of the psilocybin. Anorexia nervosa symptoms will be measured by a change in the score of questionnaires that evaluate eating disorder symptoms by having participants complete interviews and questionnaires before and after the dosing.

WE’RE RECRUITING

  • Adult females and males who have a current diagnosis of anorexia nervosa

ELIGIBLE PARTICIPANTS

  • Adult females and males between ages 18-40 years old

Binge Eating Brain Imaging Study

About the study

This research uses fMRI to investigate how brain function drives binge eating. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) techniques use powerful magnetic fields that allow a scanner and a computer to take very detailed pictures of the structure of the brain and brain activation.

What you'll be asked to do

Participation in this study includes questionnaires about mood, eating and behavior, a diagnostic interview and 2 brain imaging study visits. At each of the brain imaging study visits participants spend 2 hours in the scanner. During the scan, participants will complete 3 tasks – a math task, a food choice task and a taste task. Participants will also complete a blood draw and saliva samples to assess hormone and cortisol levels and will eat lunch after the scan is finished.

Compensation

Participants are compensated up to $525 for completing all of the study procedures.

WE’RE RECRUITING

  • Female and males who have a current diagnosis of binge eating disorder or bulimia nervosa as well as individuals who are currently obese or are at a healthy weight with no major medical history.

ELIGIBLE PARTICIPANTS

Inclusion Criteria for Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia Nervosa
  • 18-55 years old
  • Right-handed
  • Meets diagnostic criteria for binge eating disorder or bulimia nervosa
Inclusion Criteria for Obesity
  • 18-55 years old
  • Right-handed
  • Current body mass index (BMI) > 30kg/m2
  • Stable food intake regimen in previous 4 weeks
Inclusion Criteria for Healthy Controls
  • 18-55 years old
  • Right-handed
  • Healthy body weight between 90-110% average body weight since puberty
  • Regular monthly menstrual cycle (if applicable)
  • No major medical illness or medications (birth control is allowed)
Individuals who are currently pregnant or breastfeeding or have metal devices, implants or braces are not eligible to participate.

Neurobiology of Eating Disorders

About the study

This research is investigating areas of the brain responsible for temperaments reflecting greater inhibition, impulsivity, and effortful control. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) techniques use powerful magnetic fields that allow a scanner and a computer to take very detailed pictures of the structure of the brain and brain activation.

What you'll be asked to do

Participation in this study includes self-report assessments, diagnostic interviews, bloodwork, and a baseline MRI scan visit. There is also an additional 1-year follow up, which includes self-report assessments, interviews, and a follow-up MRI scan visit.

Compensation

You will be compensated up to $525

WE’RE RECRUITING

  • Females who currently have an eating disorder

ELIGIBLE PARTICIPANTS

  • Adolescent females between the ages of 13-17 years old

Sensation and Emotion Study

ABOUT THE STUDY

This research uses fMRI to assess how the brains of individuals who have recovered from eating disorders may respond differently during tasks related to various sensations. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) techniques use powerful magnetic fields that allow a scanner and a computer to take very detailed pictures of the structure of the brain and brain activation.

WHAT YOU’LL BE ASKED TO DO

Participation in this study includes diagnostic interviews and a 2- 4 hour scanning visit, with one- two hours in the MRI scanner. During the scan, participants will complete two tasks, the first of which the participant will experience two types of sensations- one tactile sensation and one respiratory sensation. The second task will measure emotional response to sound.

COMPENSATION

Participants are compensated $200 for this single visit. Depending on participants’ current location, we cover travel expenses as well as a one night hotel stay for the visit.

WE’RE RECRUITING

  • Females who have recovered from anorexia nervosa

ELIGIBLE PARTICIPANTS

  • Adults and teen females between ages 18-45 years old
  • Behavior/symptom free for at least 12 months (if recovered)
  • Drug and medicine free for at least 3 months (birth control is okay)

The Legacy Project

ABOUT THE PROGRAM

The Legacy Project aims to help implement evidence-based practice for bulimic-spectrum eating disorders within community settings in San Diego. The project will be providing training and consultation to therapists at Rady Children’s Hospital (RCH) Outpatient Psychiatry Clinics in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and evidence-based practice for bulimic spectrum eating disorders, with the goal of helping improve outcomes for difficult-to-treat cases. The study is in collaboration with RCH Outpatient Psychiatry Clinics and supported by the Rolf Benirschke Legacy Foundation.

Testimonial from a Past Participant

'Having the opportunity to participate in an eating disorder research study, as a result of a personal experience, was rewarding in many ways. The research staff was professional, organized & compassionate; I felt well-informed throughout the duration of the whole study. Not only did I get the opportunity to meet individuals who shared the same interest in learning more about such a life-threatening illness, I was also given great accommodation in San Diego and generous compensation. I look forward to participating in future opportunities! Thank you UCSD staff for a great experience!'