Current Research at UCSF

Non-invasive Brain Stimulation to Treat Anorexia Nervosa 

Sasha Gorrell, PhD, and Andrew Moses Lee, MD, PhD

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is being studied as a treatment for Anorexia Nervosa (AN).  It involves non-invasive electromagnetic brain stimulation at the orbitofrontal cortex.  TMS is also regularly used to treat other neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).  Both AN and OCD are characterized by the propensity toward cognitive inflexibility.  Since TMS is an effective FDA-cleared treatment for OCD, the researchers believe that it may also be an effective treatment for AN.   

There are two groups for this study that each have a separate purpose. The purpose of the first group (ages 14 – 45) is to evaluate long-term changes in the brain specific to habit-directed networks in participants with AN.  Participants in this group will undergo functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at least 5 times over a 10-month period. Participants in this first group will not receive rTMS treatment.  

The purpose of the second group (ages 18 - 45) is to determine if rTMS is effective in treating AN. Participants in this group will receive rTMS treatment for 10 days (2 consecutive weeks).  Each day will involve 5 rTMS treatments and will require approximately 5 hours. Participants in this group will also undergo fMRI before the first TMS treatment and after the final TMS treatment.

We are currently recruiting for both groups. 

Learning & Outcome in Anorexia Nervosa

Erin Reilly, PhD

We are recruiting adolescent females aged 14-17 who either struggle with anorexia nervosa and are receiving care through the UCSF Eating Disorders program, or adolescent females aged 14-17 who have never struggled with an eating disorder.

Participation in the study will involve completing a brief screening process, attending a Zoom appointment, and 1-3 meetings in-person. During each meeting, teens will be asked to complete self-report questionnaires and some brief tasks. Participants struggling with anorexia nervosa will receive up to 6 months of psychotherapy at no cost with members of our team.

Participants can earn between $95 - $235 for participation in the study. For more information or to indicate interest, contact [email protected]!

Neural Correlates of Reinforcement Learning Specific to Hyperactivity in Adolescent Anorexia Nervosa: The BrainEx Study

Sasha Gorrell, PhD

We are recruiting teens (ages 14-18) with anorexia nervosa OR with no history of an eating disorder or current psychiatric disorder to participate in a neuroimaging study. Participants will be randomly selected to either one or two in-person study visits. In the first study visit, all participants will complete a short interview, computer tasks, and surveys. Participants who are randomized to a second study visit will undergo an fMRI scan.

You can receive a $150 Amazon gift card for participating. For more information, please go to: or contact [email protected]

Disordered Eating and Muscle-Enhancing Behaviors in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health 

Jason Nagata, MD, MSc

We are analyzing national data that has followed adolescents 11-18 years old for over 25 years. We are examining health consequences of eating disorders, disordered eating behaviors, and muscle-enhancing behaviors in adolescents and young adults. For more information about this study, please go to:

Eating Disorders and Body Image in Sexual and Gender Minorities: The PRIDE Study

Jason Nagata, MD, MSc

We are partnering with The PRIDE Study, a large national study of people who identify as a sexual and/or gender minority (SGM), including, but not limited to, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals. We are studying eating disorder attitudes and behaviors as well as muscle-enhancing behaviors in The PRIDE Study. For more information about this study, please go to:

StRONG: The Study of Refeeding to Optimize iNpatient Gains 

Andrea Garber, PhD

The Study of Refeeding to Optimize iNpatient Gains is a prospective randomized controlled trial examining two different diets for nutritional rehabilitation during hospitalization, among patients 12 to 24 years old. Unlike previous studies in this area of research, participants will be followed for one year after leaving the hospital. The purpose is to study the relationship between dietary style of refeeding during hospitalization and the rate of recovery and relapse in the outpatient setting. Safety, efficacy, and cost effectiveness will all be taken into account. Patients who are hospitalized may choose to participate in this study without changing any aspect of their care plan except for participation in additional assessment procedures such as completion of psychological questionnaires, interviews, and five brief follow-up study visits over the course of a year, which may be coordinated with standard outpatient visits. 

Online Training in Family Based Therapy

Stanford University and University of California, San Francisco are conducting a study funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health to examine an enhanced form of online training in Family Based Treatment for adolescents with anorexia nervosa.

For more information about this study, please go to:

Learn more about the training under investigation here:       

Optimizing Fidelity in Family-Based Treatment for Adolescent Anorexia Nervosa

Daniel Le Grange, PhD

We are currently conducting a research study that involves coding audio-recorded sessions of family-based treatment for anorexia nervosa to examine therapists' adherence to the family-based treatment manual. This study aims to optimize the efficacy of family-based treatment.  For more information about this study, please go to:

Study of Psilocybin for Anorexia Nervosa in Young Adults (SPANYA)

Marissa Raymond-Flesch, MD, MPH

Psilocybin therapy is a promising new treatment for depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. SPANYA is the first study of psilocybin therapy in young adults (18 to 25 years old) with anorexia nervosa. Psilocybin therapy involves preparatory therapy sessions, psilocybin dosing sessions, and integrative therapy sessions with trained mental health providers.  This study will involve careful medical and mental health screening and monitoring of participants. The purpose of this study is to understand the safety and efficacy of psilocybin therapy for the treatment of anorexia nervosa in young adults who have remained ill despite prior therapies. This study is conducted in partnership with UCSF’s Translational Psychedelic Research (TrPR) Program. We will begin enrolling participants in late 2023 or early 2024. You can donate to this research project here:

The National Eating Disorder Quality Improvement Collaborative

The National Eating Disorder Quality Improvement Collaborative is a national collaborative of Adolescent Medicine sites that provide care to patients with eating disorders. The initial goal of this collaboration was to collect and pool outcome data in order to compare effectiveness of different programs in the context of available services. The belief was that this would help to explain which program-specific factors led to improved outcomes. UCSF participated in this initial work and has remained a part of this collaborative as it broadens and expands its research scope.

Study of Hospitalized Adolescents with Anorexia Nervosa (SHAAN)

Andrea Garber, PhD

Weight gain during hospitalization predicts better outcomes for patients with Anorexia Nervosa.  However, weight gain is difficult to achieve and little is known about optimal diets to safely maximize nutritional recovery. The SHAAN study is a prospective examination of refeeding during hospitalization among patients 9 to 20 years old. The purpose is to study the relation between diet and weight change, so that better nutritional approaches can be developed. Patients who are hospitalized may choose to participate in this study without changing any aspect of their care plan except for participation in several additional assessment procedures such as completion of psychological questionnaires, a bone scan, and echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart).

UCSF Eating Disorder Program Medical Registry

Jason Nagata, MD, MSc and Andrea Garber, PhD

We are studying medical management and medical complications of eating disorders in adolescents and young adults. We have examined sex differences in refeeding, zinc deficiency, anemia, and Vitamin D deficiency.