This application for a Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award proposes training and research designed to provide the candidate with a foundation to establish a successful career as an independent investigator with expertise in biobehavioral research on dimensions of neurocognition and negative affectivity that underlie eating disorder psychopathology. The training and research goals of this application are consistent with Strategy 1.4 of the NIMH Strategic Plan to develop new ways of classifying psychopathology for research based on behavioral and neurobiological dimensions. The candidate seeks advanced training in three areas: (1) dimensional and multi-method approaches to studying and classifying psychopathology, (2) neurocognition and associated tasks, and (3) neurobiology and the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study theoretically relevant neurocircuitry in eating disorders. Training will be guided by an interdisciplinary team of mentors and consultants and will involve formal (e.g., coursework, workshops) and informal (e.g., directed readings, mentoring meetings) activities across the funding period. The research plan proposes two studies to elucidate the role of neurocognitive and affective variables in eating disorder psychopathology. In the first study, dimensions of neurocognition (e.g., response inhibition, decision making) and negative affectivity (e.g., emotional reactivity, distress tolerance) will be examined in a broad sample of 80 women recruited from community and clinical settings who present with a range of clinically significant forms of eating disorder psychopathology. Participants will complete semi-structured interviews, self-report measures, and behavioral tasks to examine the extent to which the neurocognitive and affective dimensions are associated with cognitive and behavioral manifestations of eating disorder psychopathology. In the second study, a sample of 24 participants comprised of women with clinically significant eating disorder psychopathology involving binge eating (n=12) and non-eating disorder controls (n=12) will complete an fMRI protocol assessing resting-state activity and task-evoked activity associated with response inhibition and processing of negative affective stimuli. This study will provide data on neurocircuitry associated with inhibitory contro and affective functioning in eating disorder presentations characterized by binge eating. Importantly, these results may inform efforts to refine existing eating disorder treatments and develop new interventions targeting the biobehavioral variables under investigation. In sum, the advanced training goals and research proposed in this application will facilitate the candidate's success in becoming an independent investigator in patient-oriented research, with particular expertise in the field of eating disorders, as well as associated methodological and statistical approaches consistent with a novel program of research on dimensions of biobehavioral functioning underlying eating disorder psychopathology.
Eating disorders are characterized by increased health care utilization, impaired role functioning, reduced quality of life, serious medical consequences, and elevated rates of suicide. The proposed project will help to clarify how dimensions of neurocognition and negative emotion relate to eating disorder symptoms, and may help to identify biobehavioral targets for the treatment of eating disorders.