BY: Katherine Schaumberg, PhD
DATE: 27 September 2017
The annual conference for the Eating Disorders Research Society (EDRS) was held on September 14-16th in Leipzig, Germany. EDRS is focused on the latest developments in eating disorder research. At this conference, those who are deeply involved in eating disorder research present cutting edge ideas and projects in development. This year’s program featured many contributions from CEED researchers, including a talk by Dr. Cynthia Bulik on the latest advancements in genetics and epigenetics of eating disorders, an award-winning presentation on the relationship between body mass index and eating disorder risk by Dr. Zeynep Yilmaz, and the best student presentation award to our Karolinska trainee Lauren Breithaupt on autoimmune and eating disorders.
In addition to presentations by the CEED team, the conference focused on advances in the biological understanding of eating disorders, along with the need for evaluation of digital-based treatment for eating disorders, radical collaboration among investigators outside of typical investigative teams, and detecting risk for eating disorders early in childhood.
Overall, there is a growing understanding that eating disorder research must be multidisciplinary and reach beyond traditional collaborations to those who have vastly different expertise. For example, in order to develop and disseminate effective treatments in mobile and online platforms, the field will need to build partnerships and relationships with computer programmers and technology-based companies. Presenters discussed how it is possible for interventions to become responsive and adaptive based on feedback from mobile devices and sensors, and that developing this technology will require new partnerships across multiple disciplines. Research investigating the genetic underpinnings of eating disorders also requires a large research team with a vast set of skills, as evidenced by the Eating Disorder Working Group of the Psychiatric Genetics Consortium.
With regards to early risk for eating disorders, speakers in a symposium on development noted links between a variety of symptoms in childhood (including neurodevelopmental delays, autism, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) that may have links with eating disorders. Early risk identification is an active area of research, with the hope that we will be able to identify those at risk for eating disorders earlier in life in order to maximize prevention efforts.
Another concept discussed at the conference included the topics of habit, reward, and compulsivity, as they relate to eating disorders. Dr. Anne Haynos from the University of Minnesota discussed results of a study that found deficiencies in reward and habit processing in individuals with anorexia nervosa, and Dr. Trevor Robbins from the University of Cambridge reviewed studies on addictive and obsessive-compulsive disorders that may share similar neural pathways with eating disorders.
Overall, speakers from the meeting showcased bold ideas about how to move eating disorder research forward. The researchers at CEED, along with many other research teams across the globe, are working to bring new ideas to the forefront to understand and treat these conditions.