Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

We work to understand the cognitive, biological, emotional and somatic processes underpinning the severe eating disorder Anorexia Nervosa in particular, and Eating Disorders in general. Our trans-disciplinary research, involving clinicians and neuroscientists, aims to translate research findings into novel treatment strategies.

Better understanding of processes underlying Anorexia Nervosa will help us develop novel treatments. ...Promoting recovery is at the heart of our work iStockPhoto
Better understanding of processes underlying Anorexia Nervosa will help us develop novel treatments. ...Promoting recovery is at the heart of our work

Our work focuses on Anorexia Nervosa. This severe eating disorder has the highest mortality of any psychiatric disorder and remains one of the most challenging to treat and recover from, with a paucity of evidence based treatments. To develop more effective treatments we need a better understanding of processes underpinning the illness.

I think perfectionism combined with over-analysing is quite a deadly combination.…. Now I am better, I feel I am dwelling in my body, perhaps for the first time in my adult experience.Quotes from individuals with Anorexia Nervosa

We are proud of the innovative way our research brings together cognitive science, neuroscience and experimental psychology. This integration helps generate a deeper understanding of how cognitive, emotional and bodily processes interact to maintain the illness.

In collaboration with world-class neuroscientists our work investigates brain processes underpinning thinking, feeling and experiencing reward, and how these differ for people with Anorexia Nervosa. Recent research has focused on the role of ruminative thought processes and abnormal reward processing. We aim to translate research findings into developing new forms of treatment and relapse prevention.

We have recently been awarded an MRC ‘Confidence in Concept Award’ (PI Rebecca Park) , in collaboration with Professor Tipu Aziz, Dept of Neurosurgery and Professor Catherine Harmer in Neurosciences. This grant- " Hungry for reward"- funds two complimentary studies; 1. A multimodal imaging study of neural processing and reward in individuals with current and past Anorexia Nervosa, and 2 . A pilot intervention study of Deep Brain Stimulation targeted at neural reward centres, for individuals with severe enduring Anorexia Nervosa. These studies explore the neural processing and behavioural correlates of aberrant reward and habit formation in Anorexia Nervosa . This work aims to contribute to develop knowledge of neural processes underpinning Anorexia Nervosa and in tandem develop novel treatment strategies.

We are developing an international reputation in the field of Eating Disorders, and have made important advances in understanding the neurobiology of Anorexia Nervosa using functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI. These findings not only help us to better understand the disorder but enable us to push forward with research that is directly relevant to the development of new treatments.

Affiliated groups:

OxBREaD benefits from affiliations with two well established groups within the Department of Psychiatry:

CREDO1: Professor Chris Fairburn’s research group is world leading in the development of treatments for Eating Disorders.

PERL: Professors Catherine Harmer's group has an international reputation for excellence in the field of neuroscience and neuroimaging.

For more information on the Oxfordshire Specialist Eating Disorders service based at Cotswold House Oxford go to: The Cotswold House website and Oxford Health Eating Disorder Service website.

For more information on eating disorders and finding help go to the beat website.

Selected publications

Interested in helping eating disorder research?

Do join our  research interested list if you have any personal experience of an eating disorder, currently or in the past. Please contact us if you want to know more about our work, and we will then send you information about current research studies and opportunities to get involved.

For more information or to register:
Oxford Research Interested List for Anorexia Nervosa (ORLA)

Or contact us:
Oxford Brain-Body Research in Eating Disorders (OxBREaD)
Department of Psychiatry
Warneford Hospital

Telephone: 01865 223606

Research newsletters

Keep up to date with our research progress via our newsletters.


  • We are pleased to announce that Alexandra Pike joined the team in October 2015 as a DPhil student funded by a departmental studentship and the MRC. Alex will be studying the psychopharmacology of anorexia and how it relates to compulsivity. She is jointly supervised by Professor Phil Cowen.
  • We are pleased that Dr Helen Bould is working with our group as a Wellcome Doctoral Training Fellow on body image and positivity in children and adolescents. She is jointly supervised by Dr Matthew Broome and Professor Catherine Harmer.
  • We would like to congratulate Lauren Godier on completing her DPhil in the autumn of 2015, entitled "Compulsivity in Anorexia Nervosa". We are sad to be saying farewell to her and wish her the best of luck in the future! She is now working at the Veteran's and Families Institute at Anglia Ruskin University as a postdoctoral research assistant.

Current research studies

Can Deep Brain Stimulation help severe enduring Anorexia Nervosa?

We are piloting Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) as a novel experimental treatment for severe enduring AN. This study includes  investigation of  the underlying neural processes and a substudy of the important ethical issues involved. DBS is a reversible, adjustable, non-destructive intervention that involves implanting fine wires to target specific brain areas. Using this surgically implanted medical device like a ‘brain pacemaker’, carefully controlled electrical pulses are delivered to the precisely targeted brain area, stimulating them in a controlled manner

 DBS has been used for over 20 years to help severe Parkinson disease, and more recently has been used for movement disorders in adults and children and chronic pain Different DBS targets have been shown to help severe psychiatric disorders in particular  OCD and depression.  

Based on our prior research, and evidence from allied conditions, we chose to target specific reward centres in the brain. This DBS target  has been shown to help severe OCD and addictions, which share some features with AN.

This study aims to explore the acceptability  and feasibility of using DBS to treat AN and will also  map the neural mechanisms underpinning reward as a basis for further developing novel treatments.

We  are recruiting  a small number of individuals with severe enduring AN who want to take part

Current collaborations

  • Professor Phil Cowen (Neurosciences, Oxford University)
  • Professor Catherine Harmer (Neurosciences, Oxford University)
  • Professor Kia Nobre (OHBA, Oxford University)
  • Professor Tipu Aziz  (Department of Neurosurgery, Oxford University),
  • Dr Jacinta Tan, Psychiatrist and ethicist, (University of Swansea)
  • Dr Sanne de Witt (University of Amsterdam),
  • Claire Gillan (University of Cambridge) 

Now recruiting a part-time postdoctoral research assistant

Do you want to work with us? Interested in our research? Then this opportunity might be for you!

Applications are invited for a part-time Postdoctoral Research Assistant (18.75 hours, 50% FTE) to work as part of the Oxbread team on a dedicated project investigating the brain basis of anorexia nervosa and the effects of neuromodulation. The post in based in the Department of Psychiatry at the Warneford Hospital, is fixed-term and funded for 2 years with a starting date of 1 September 2016.
Grade 7: £30,738 - £37,768 with a discretionary range to £41,255 p.a. (pro rata)

Click here for more information

Related research themes