Binge-eating is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large amounts of foods, eating much more rapidly than normal and until feeling uncomfortably full, as well as feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or guilty after those episodes. Two eating disorders are characterized by binge-eating as central diagnostic criteria, bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge eating disorder (BED). Behavior studies have shown that negative affect and negative urgency (the tendency to act rashly when distressed) often drive binge-eating. A knowledge gap exists for 1) what neurobiological underpinnings are associated with negative affect that leads to loss of control and drives binge-eating, 2) whether neurotransmitter related brain circuits can be specifically linked to binge-eating, and 3) whether brain imaging can identify a brain based vulnerability for negative affect and excessive food intake in the natural environment. This application will study binge-eating across diagnostic categories, in individuals at normal weight with BN and obese individuals with BED, in contrast with normal weight or obese controls. We will apply the constructs cognitive control and positive valence system from NIMH's Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project together with functional magnetic resonance brain imaging.
In Aim 1. we will test whether negative affect alters brain reinforcement learning during a dopamine anchored taste reward paradigm.
In Aim 2. we will study during a food choice paradigm the effects of negative affect on brain circuitry for cognitive control and food valuation.
Aim 3. is to test whether brain activation predicts food intake or negative affect in a person's naturalistic environment, using ecological momentary assessment and meal observation. Binge-eating associated disorders are major health concerns with reduced quality of life and increased mortality rate, and the available treatments are limited. The neurobiology underlying binge-eating is not well understood and has not specifically been studied in a transdiagnostic approach using the NIMH's research domain criteria. This project will bridge affective-cognitive research knowledge with neurobiological brain research across eating disorders characterized by binge-eating as primary symptom. It will fill an important research and knowledge gap to develop intervention-directed research in the future.

Public Health Relevance

Binge-eating is a behavioral characteristic of bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder and associated with significant morbidity and mortality, but its neurobiological underpinnings are not well understood. This project will identify the impact of negative affect on brain circuitry for dopamine related reinforcement learning, food value computation and cognitive control over food choice across individuals with bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, obesity and healthy controls. This project will provide information on specific brain circuit alterations that drive binge- eating as well as directions for future treatment development.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Adult Psychopathology and Disorders of Aging Study Section (APDA)
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Chavez, Mark
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University of California, San Diego
La Jolla
United States
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