Anorexia Nervosa (AN) usually begins during adolescence and is a serious psychiatric disorder associated with high morbidity, mortality, and economic cost. Although Family-Based Treatment (FBT) leads to full and stable recovery in about 50% of adolescents with short duration AN, there are no evidence based interventions for those who do not respond and who, as a result, are at approximately 33% risk for becoming chronically ill. Therefore, it is imperative to intervene to change the trajectory of young patient at risk for becoming chronically ill while there is a reasonable opportunity for success. This application in response to PA-12-279 (R34) proposes to study the feasibility of combining Cognitive Remediation Therapy (CRT) with FBT for future use in an adequately powered RCT to reduce the risk of adolescents developing persistent AN. Two studies suggest that higher levels of obsessional features lead to poorer outcome in FBT. It is proposed that CRT addresses the cognitive underpinnings of obsessional thought by promoting more flexible and less perseverative thinking. These changes could in turn lead to an improved ability to accept the need for change in the behaviors and thoughts that maintain AN. Two small case series report significant improvement in adults with AN. In addition, case series data in adolescents with AN find CRT is acceptable and improves cognitive processes. We propose the following Specific Aims:
Aim 1 : To examine the feasibility of incorporating CRT in FBT. We will examine acceptability, recruitment, feasibility of assessment procedures and instruments of FBT plus CRT and the acceptability of the comparison treatment (FBT plus art therapy).
Aim 2 : To explore changes in cognitive style, weight, eating related cognitions, and psychosocial functioning in those who received FBT plus CRT compared to FBT plus art therapy. To accomplish Aim 1, we will recruit 30 adolescents (ages 12-18) with AN and evidence of OC features on the YBC-ED (score >14). These participants will be randomized to either FBT (15 sessions) plus art exercises (15 sessions) for 6 months or FBT plus CRT (15 sessions) for 6 months. Our primary outcomes are: feasibility of recruitment, retention rates, and viability of assessment procedures. Secondary outcomes (Aim 2) are changes in neuropsychological functioning, weight, eating related psychopathology and psychosocial functioning. Assessments will occur at four time points: baseline, 4 weeks, 8 weeks, and end of treatment (EOT).

Public Health Relevance

This application proposes examining the feasibility of conducting a study combining cognitive remediation therapy and family therapy to address cognitive style associated with obsessive and compulsive features in adolescent anorexia nervosa. Patients with these features have lower recovery rates than those without them. By addressing these cognitive features in the context of family therapy, the aim is to improve the recovery rates of adolescents with anorexia nervosa to prevent the development of a chronic form of the disorder. The aim of the current study is to determine whether it is feasible to conduct an adequately powered RCT examining this question by assessing the acceptability, recruitment, retention, and preliminary outcomes in a pilot RCT.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Planning Grant (R34)
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Interventions Committee for Disorders Involving Children and Their Families (ITVC)
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Sherrill, Joel
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Stanford University
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Forsberg, Sarah; Lock, James (2015) Family-based Treatment of Child and Adolescent Eating Disorders. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am 24:617-29