Our Research

Current Research

Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is a serious condition associated with numerous medical complications, psychiatric comorbidity, and the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Currently, the best tool for predicting prognosis for AN is "rapid response" (i.e., weight gain over the first four weeks of treatment). Yet, there are no reliable predictors of rapid response at baseline. The goal of this study is to identify neuro-markers that indicate early risk for poor treatment outcomes using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a noninvasive brain imaging technique. 

We are currently recruiting for this study. Please use this link to complete our brief initial screening survey. 



College students are an at-risk group for developing eating disorders, yet many college campuses lack sufficient resources to provide ED specialty care. The COPE lab created a new mobile phone application to supplement outpatient treatment for KU students with eating disorder concerns (e.g., body-image problems, compulsive, unhealthy exercise, binge eating, under-eating).

Building Healthy Eating & Self-Esteem, or BEST-U, is an 11-week-long treatment study that provides guided self-help Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT-gsh) materials via a user-friendly mobile phone app. Participants will additionally meet with a coach for 30 minutes weekly for additional support and to expand upon what was learned in the app. 

Other studies have found that CBT-gsh delivered through a companion book can reduce binge eating and purging rates by almost 60%. We hope that BEST-U will become an effective and accessible form of treatment for college students with eating disorder concerns at other universities around the country.  

If you are interested in participating or have any questions, you may contact us at cope@ku.edu, or take our eligibility survey here

The Eating Pathology Symptoms Inventory (EPSI) is a self-report questionnaire created by Dr. Kelsie Forbush in 2013 to assess eating, weight, and shape concerns. Although our recent research suggests that the EPSI is valid in teenagers (Richson et al., 2021), we are working on developing an extended version for use in older children. 

To expand the utility of the EPSI and address the need for strong eating- and feeding-disorder assessment for youth, we are developing a child and teen version of the questionnaire (called the EPSI CHaT).

We are currently recruiting children and teens between the ages of 10 and 18 years old for this study. Eligible children and teens will be invited to complete the EPSI CHaTT and other similar questionnaires. If you are a parent and are interested in having your child participate or would like more information, you may contact us at eatstudy@ku.edu, or you may take our brief initial eligibility screening survey using this link. 

With rates of eating disorders increasing substantially in teens since the pandemic, and outpatient therapists experiencing burnout, therapists and clients deserve support to ensure that the important gains made in acute treatment are maintained. To accomplish this, we’re conducting an NIH-funded research study to test a FREE evidence-based mHealth app, which also provides automated outcomes tracking information via an easy-to-use online dashboard!

The app is designed for clients aged 13-21 with anorexia nervosa (AN) or atypical anorexia nervosa (AAN). We are currently enrolling outpatient therapists, and their clients who were recently discharged from intensive treatment. Enrolled participants will use either the STAR or the Present-focused Anorexia nervosa Coping Treatment (PACT) app during the study. Both are 12-week evidence-based mHealth treatments designed to address eating disorder concerns. Take a closer look at our app here: https://youtu.be/bpmcNGtgwuM

If you are, or caring for, someone aged 13-21 with AN or AAN, or a therapist treating teens with AN or AANyou may be eligible to enroll and begin using the app. Contact us at star@ku.edu for more information!

Military veterans are at higher risk of engaging in disordered eating compared to the civilian population. They are subject to strict standards for weight, body shape, physical fitness, and if they don't meet these requirements, they must participate in a weight loss program or risk separation from service. Military-relevant populations are at higher risk for development of an eating disorder, current eating-disorder screening tools were developed and validated in samples composed mainly of cisgender white women. With funding from the United States Department of Defense, we have invited a representative nationwide sample of veterans to participate in two studies, aimed at helping create an improved transdiagnostic screening tool. The primary aim for Study 1 (completed)was to develop a screening tool to help identify disordered eating, as well as anxiety, trauma, and mood disorders. The primary aim of Study 2 (underway) is to test the accuracy of our screening tool in a new sample of veterans (N=400) and conduct qualitative research to identify organizational and institutional barriers to accessing eating disorder treatment in the military. 

Check out our most recent press release on this study.

Past & Closed for Enrollment Research

This study aimed to improve the classification of eating disorders and identify predictors of stability and change of eating disorders. We continue to be interested in what predicts recovery and what factors lead an individual to relapse.

Participants completed sets of standardized interviews and self-report questionnaires that asked about eating behaviors, concerns about shape and weight, personality, interpersonal relationships, and general psychological distress. This longitudinal study followed individuals with an eating disorder for three years.

We are no longer recruiting for this study, but we continue to follow up with enrolled participants.

Movement is a core feature of most human behavior. Movement involves waking up, getting out of bed, brushing teeth, and moving from point A to point B throughout the day.

Exercise is known as intentional movement/physical activity aimed at improving health or physical fitness. There are many different reasons why individuals choose to exercise (e.g., individuals may exercise for fun, stress relief, strength building, weight loss, etc.). Generally speaking, exercise is associated with physical and mental health benefits. Moderate physical activity is associated with an increase in positive emotions following exercise. However, maladaptive exercise could be harmful, and individuals who engage in maladaptive exercise may not receive all of the benefits that exercise typically produces.

Maladaptive exercise includes exercise to compensate for eating or to burn calories in anticipation of eating, exercise despite an illness or injury, exercise that interferes with other tasks/events, exercise that a person feels driven or compelled to do, and very rigid or very intense exercise.

Research from this study suggests that women with eating disorders who engage in maladaptive exercise have increased positive emotions in the hours leading up to exercise and a slight decrease in positive emotions following exercise. The relationship between maladaptive exercise and mood is surprising and requires further research to understand fully. In the summer of 2022, our team launched FuEL2.0, a new exercise research study within the CARE lab. FuEL 2.0 aimed to study further the complex and surprising relationship between maladaptive exercise and changes in emotion among women and men with eating disorders.

This study is no longer recruiting participants. However, any questions on this study may be sent to eatstudy@ku.edu

The goal of this study was to identify what leads to high-quality and poor-quality diets to improve future healthy eating plans for adolescents with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Participants (the adolescents’ guardians) were asked several questions about their personal stress levels, leisure activities, and their child’s eating behaviors. A secondary aim was to characterize the rates of avoidant and restrictive food intake patterns in this population and the impact of food selectivity on parental stress levels.

This study is currently closed for enrollment. 

Other Collaborative Research

Dr. Joseph Donnelly -University of Kansas Medical Center

Dr. Laura Martin at the Hoglund Brain Imaging Center

Collaborations in several studies with Dr. Sara Gould & CMH's Eating Disorder Clinic 

Dr. Michael Vitevitch at the University of Kansas