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The role of social, genetic and environmental factors in healthy eating:
A multicentre analysis of eating disorders and obesity

Contract number : QLK1-2000-00916
Contract type : Shared Cost Project
Total cost : € 2.449.635
EC contribution : € 2.449.635
Starting date : 1/03/2000
Duration : 36 Months
Scientific Officer : Jürgen Lucas
Project website :
Prof. Dr Janet Treasure
King's College, University of London
Institute of Psychiatry
Department of Psychiatry
Eating Disorders Unit
De Crespigny Park
SE5 8AF Denmark Hill, London
United Kingdom
Tel.: +44 207 955 42 47
Fax: +44 207 955 2976
E-mail: j.treasure @

This project aims to identify psychosocial and genetic risk factors for anorexia, bulimia and obesity, and correlate these with neuroimaging and neuropsychology. We will create an etiological model for use as tool for improving prevention and treatment of these disorders. We will examine environment by measuring psychosocial and endogenous risk factors such as childhood obesity, sexual abuse, personality and psychopathology. We will examine the human genome for genetic risk factors in large, well-characterised European samples. We will examine the brain by performing by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fRMI) and positron emission tomography (PET) neuroimaging to explore neuroanatomical and neurochemical correlates as well as neuropsychology to reveal cognitive factors that trigger and prolong these disorders. Finally, we will model interactions between psychopathology, genes, culture, gender and psychosocial risk.


The overall objective of this project is to identify psychosocial, cultural and genetic risk factors for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and obesity, and correlate these findings with functional analysis of the brain in the eating disordered state.

(expected) Results and achievements

The aim of the first year of research for the HUMAN BRAIN MODULE was to establish the paradigms to be used in the neuroimaging and neuropsychology research during the remainder of the project. Healthy volunteers underwent fMRI while observing pictures related to foods and bodies. The results lead to the hypothesis of direct evidence of sensitivity to disgust in patients with anorexia nervosa. For the neuropsychology paradigms, nine different scales were used. Compared to controls, patients with anorexia showed increased perceptual (CAT BAT) and cognitive rigidity (Uznadze's illusion) and dysdiadodokinesis, whereas bulimic patients showed strong perceptual instability on set flexibility analysis (CAT BAT). Most of these differences were not present in weight recovered anorexics except for cognitive rigidity (Uznadze's illusion), which was seen in fully recovered patients as well, indicating that it is an illness related trait.

The aim of the first year of research for the HUMAN ENVIRONMENT MODULE was to design and translate the questionnaires and recruit volunteers. Besides adaptations and translations of existing questionnaires, two new instruments have been created, validated and translated into the relevant languages of the consortium: the EATATE phenotype interview, a detailed structured diagnostic instrument, and the Modified Risk Factor Interview, an assessment of premorbid risk factors and childhood traits.

The aim of the first year of research for the HUMAN GENOME module was to establish which volunteer patient DNA samples were already available from the participating groups across Europe, to create a list of these available samples and their genotypes, and to perform combined analysis. The existing genotype list and analysis for obesity trios and anorexia nervosa trios were successfully completed and one paper has been accepted for publication.


University of Vienna
University Clinic of Childhood and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry
Währinger Gürtel 18-20
1090 Wien
University of Florence
Dept of Neurological and Psychiatric Sciences
Viale Morgagni, 85
50134 Firenze
Helsinki University Hospital
Obesity Research Unit
PO Box446
00029 HUCH Helsinki
Philipps University of Marburg
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Clinical Research Group
Schützenstraße 49
35039 Marburg
Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Louis Mourier
Université Paris VII
178 Rue des Renoulliers
92700 Colombes
Ciutat Sanitaria i Universitaria de Bellvitge
Institut Catalá de la Salut
Department of Psychiatry
Feixa Llarga S/N
08907 Barcelona
Psychiatric Clinic Ljubljana
Zaloska 29
1000 Ljubljana
Fondazione Centro San Raffaele del Monte Tabor
Dept of Psychiatry IV-DSNP
Via Prinetti 29
20127 Milano

Fifth Framework Programme

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