Skip to main content

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  translate research findings into developing new forms of treatment and relapse prevention.

 An MRC ‘Confidence in Concept Award’ (PI Rebecca Park) , in collaboration with Professor Tipu Aziz, Nuffield Department of Surgery and Professor Catherine Harmer in Neurosciences allowed us to initiate 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 (DBS) 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 . The findings contribute to develop knowledge of neural processes underpinning Anorexia Nervosa and in tandem develop novel treatment strategies. With the aid of additional grants and generous charitable donations we continue the DBS study, which has full HRA approval. We have now published the protocol and an important ethics gold standard to guide such studies worldwide.

With an international reputation in the field of Eating Disorders, we  have made important advances in understanding the neurobiology of Anorexia Nervosa using functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI and MEG. 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 HBA  well established groups within the Department of Psychiatry:

Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, OHBA

Wellcome Centre for ethics and humanities :  Professor Ilina Singh

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.

Our team

Selected publications

Related research themes