Research projects – Eating disorders


Phenomenology, etiology, and treatment of eating disorders

Research at the Eating Disorders Program (EDP) addresses various aspects of the phenomenology, etiology, and treatment of eating disorders (EDs) in the spectrum of anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN).

Inspired by a multidimensional biopsychosocial model, studies in the program focus on many themes:

  • Epigenetics and the gene-environment relation
  • Individual and familial psychological factors (impulsivity, perfectionism, etc.)
  • Developmental processes, childhood trauma
  • Neuroendocrinology and neurobiology (neurotransmitter function)
  • Genetics
  • Response to treatment and prognosis factors
  • Motivation to change

More importantly, among active eating-disorder focused centres around the world, the EDP is one of the world leaders in biopsychosocial integration, the result of which is a developed attention to constitution-environment interaction effects that puts the EDP on the cutting-edge of work in the area.

The research program also includes studies on treatment outcome, more specifically on factors that influence outcome quality in different patient sub-groups. For exemple:

  • Associations between certain genetic polymorphisms and degree of symptom improvement following multimodal eating disorder treatment
  • The role of motivation for treatment (readiness for change and autonomous motivation) in predicting treatment outcome
  • Role of therapist factors (therapeutic alliance and perceived therapist autonomy support) in mediating the effects of motivation on treatment response.

On-going studies

  1. A dimensional (trait-centred) study of effects of genetic variations and childhood trauma upon the serotonin system and HPA axis in bulimia nervosa: A two-stage (cross sectional/ longitudinal) exploration into biopsychosocial bases for variations in clinical phenomenology and outcome.

    Principal researcher: Howard Steiger, PhD
    Associate researchers: Ridha Joober, MD, PhD, Lise Gauvin, PhD, Mimi Israël, MD, N.M.K. Ng Ying Kin, PhD, Simon Young, PhD
    Funding: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

  2. An application of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) techniques to characterize frontostriatal brain-activation patterns in women with Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa.

    Principal Investigator: Howard Steiger, PhD
    Associate researchers: Marcelo Berlim, PhD, Jens Pruessner, PhD, Lise Gauvin, PhD, Dominique Walker, PhD, Alain Gratton, PhD, Mimi Israël, MD, Gustavo Turecki, PhD
    Funding: Klarman Family Foundation Grants Program in Eating Disorder

  3. Impact of the creation of a voluntary Charter for a Healthy and Realistic Body Image on professionals working in communications, media and the fashion industry and on the attitudes and behaviors of Quebec men and women. > Read the news

    Principal investigators: Lise Gauvin, PhD, Howard Steiger, PhD
    Funding: Ministère de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition féminine


Research at the Eating Disorders Program