Project Description

First National Eating Disorders Brain Bank Launched

Mental Health Weekly
March 2018

Observing a need to help determine causes and impact of eating disorders and advance treatment approaches, the Foundation for Research and Education in Eating Disorders (FREED) and the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center at McLean Hospital have established the first and only national brain bank dedicated to research in eating disorders, officials announced Feb. 27 in a press release.

The announcement comes in the midst of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week from Feb. 26–March 4 (see MHW, Feb. 26).

The National Eating Disorders Brain Bank is a resource to the community to help advance studies to find the causes of eating disorders, which, in turn, will drive breakthroughs in the search for treatments that are desperately lacking for these neuropsychiatric illnesses, officials stated. The brain bank will also provide researchers with the opportunity to examine the impact of altered nutrition on the brain.

More than 30 million Americans are impacted by eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, according to officials. These complex conditions can have a profoundly negative impact on those who are affected as well as their families. They are increasingly being recognized as public health concerns, they said.

“Eating disorders are associated with the highest rates of health problems, death and suicide among all mental illnesses, but it remains unclear as to what causes these conditions and who are at risk,” notes Dr. Kevin St. P. McNaught, executive director of FREED. “The brain bank will allow researchers to explore the central nervous system to gain a better understanding of the biology of eating disorders.”

“Currently, only one drug is specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat individuals with binge eating disorder, and none are FDA-approved for the other eating disorders diagnoses,” said Stuart Koman, Ph.D., co-founder of FREED and CEO of Walden Behavioral Care, a full system of specialized care for individuals and families impacted by all types of eating disorders. “I expect that the national brain bank will help to evaluate and identify structural brain tissue changes and other underlying mechanisms that can be targeted to develop much needed treatments for the millions of people impacted by eating disorders.”

The national brain bank is in its early developmental stage and in the months and years ahead will drive innovations as have occurred in other neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders, officials stated. “This incredible resource is a vital priority for the eating disorders community and will require broad support to help alleviate the suffering that millions of children, adolescents and adults with these conditions experience,” said William Mosakowski, CEO of Public Consulting Group, Inc. and a founding sponsor of FREED and the brain bank program