Nancy Lee Zucker
Associate Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Our laboratory studies individuals who have difficulty detecting, interpreting, and/or using signals from their body and using this information to guide adaptive behavior, particularly in interpersonal contexts. Our primary populations of study are individuals struggling with eating disorders and feeding disorders of childhood: conditions that are sine quo non for dysregulation of basic motivational drives. Several conditions are of particular focus due to the presence of profound deficits in interoception or/and integration of internal arousal: anorexia nervosa, a disorder notable for extreme, determined, rigid, and repetitive behaviors promoting malnourishment and the inability to use signals of interoception and proprioception in the service of goal-directed actions, pediatric binge eating, a model of appetitive dysregulation marked for its early occurrence in the life cycle, and childhood feeding disorders, children who evidence early disturbance in the range of foodstuffs they are willing to sample. Study of children allows us to ask different questions about disorder etiology, maintenance, and course as we can minimize the impact of malnutrition on brain function and perhaps better characterize prior learning history.

Our parallel line of research examines how individuals’ sense others when they have difficulties sensing themselves. Increasing evidence suggests that we understand others via embodied enactments of our own experiences. These findings have profound implications for individuals who have dysfunction in the experience of their bodies as it suggests limited capacities to truly understand others’ experiences. By studying these processes in parallel, we hope to better understand how this interaction between sensing ourselves and others unfolds.

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