Eating Disorders and Obesity

The members of the section Eating Disorders and Obesity study the psychology of eating disorders and obesity. More specifically, our studies focus on the discovery and unravelling of psychological mechanisms that maintain disordered eating, and on the development of new interventions that tackle these mechanisms. This may, in the end, lead to better treatments for eating and weight disorders.

Research | staff

Our studies focus on both abnormal and normal eating behaviour. Our ultimate aim is to develop better interventions for people with eating disorders and obesity. A common theme therefore is the investigation of underlying mechanisms in the aetiology, maintenance, and treatment of disordered eating behaviour. The research in our section involves a large number of related projects, linked by the overall aim of elucidating the psychological mechanisms of abnormal eating, food cravings, dieting, weight control, body loathing and so on. For example, we investigate what makes people extremely dissatisfied about their bodies, how one can become more happy with one’s body, why some people overeat, how overeating can be reduced and controlled, and why patients with Anorexia Nervosa are extremely  successful in dieting while most obese people are not.

Research lines

Research lines within the section of Eating Disorders and Obesity are all related to the main characteristics of eating disorders and obesity. More specifically, research within this research group focuses on Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, Binge Eating Disorder and obesity. However, this does not mean that we only study abnormal behaviour. We study normal eating behaviour as well to learn how and why abnormal and normal eating differ from each other.

Experimental research
Our studies are predominantly experimental in nature. In our research, we use many innovative methods and instruments, like computerized cognitive tasks, eye tracking systems, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), Virtual Reality, and the psychophysiological assessment of the autonomic nervous system.

From lab to clinic – Translation
Our ultimate aim is to develop better interventions for people with eating disorders and obesity. Therefore, we usually follow a three-step design in our research. The first step is the study of an alleged basic mechanism in well-controlled laboratory experiments. We test whether we can induce minor symptom-like behaviours, feelings and/or cognitions in healthy participants. If we can, we might have found a mechanism that induces or maintains the disordered eating or body dissatisfaction. We then, in step 2, think of an intervention to tackle the mechanism. The effects of this intervention are tested in, again, well-controlled lab experiments. Participants with sub-clinical eating disorders or with some eating disorder symptoms might participate in this stage of research. We expect the symptoms (e.g., abnormal eating and/or body dissatisfaction) to reduce because of this intervention. If they indeed do, we translate our experimental intervention to a clinically useful treatment, in step 3, and we test the effects of this intervention in clinical participants.

Specific research themes include:

  • Brain processes
  • Cognitive processes and biases
  • Craving
  • Emotional eating
  • Executive functioning & cognitive control
  • Learning/conditioning processes
  • Reward value of eating
  • Taste and satiety
  • Weight loss & dieting



  • Anne Roefs
  • Anita Jansen
  • Sjaan Nederkoorn
  • Sandra Mulkens
  • Carolien Martijn


Associate professor

  • Katrijn Houben
  • Lotte Lemmens


Assistant professor

  • Lotte Lemmens


  • Jessica Alleva


  • Anouk Hendriks


PhD candidate

  • Emmanuelle Awad
  • Anouk van den Brand
  • Mila Dix
  • Eric Dumont
  • Britt Fleischeuer
  • Gudrun Gudmundsdottir
  • Jikke Hesen
  • Alberto Jover Martinez
  • Laurens Kemp
  • Hanna Melles
  • Codrin Mironiuc
  • Rosalie Mourmans
  • Michelle Spix
  • Maaike Steenhuis
  • Dārta Vasiļjeva
  • Eva Vanbrabant

Support staff

  • Nina Aussems (support staff NSMD)
  • Jessie Beerthuijzen (secretary)
  • Stefanie Duijvis (research assistant)
  • Esmée Groot (researcher)
  • Suzan Jordan (researcher)