Adapting a neuroscience-informed intervention to alter reward mechanisms of anorexia nervosa: a novel direction for future research

Ann F. Haynos, Lisa M. Anderson, Autumn J. Askew, Michelle G. Craske, Carol B. Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Accumulating psychobiological data implicate reward disturbances in the persistence of anorexia nervosa (AN). Evidence suggests that individuals with AN demonstrate decision-making deficits similar to those with mood and anxiety disorders that cause them to under-respond to many conventionally rewarding experiences (e.g., eating, interacting socially). In contrast, unlike individuals with other psychiatric disorders, individuals with AN simultaneously over-respond to rewards associated with eating-disorder behaviors (e.g., restrictive eating, exercising). This pattern of reward processing likely perpetuates eating-disorder symptoms, as the rewards derived from eating-disorder behaviors provide temporary relief from the anhedonia associated with limited responsivity to other rewards. Positive Affect Treatment (PAT) is a cognitive-behavioral intervention designed to target reward deficits that contribute to anhedonia in mood and anxiety disorders, including problems with reward anticipation, experiencing, and learning. PAT has been found to promote reward responsivity and clinical improvement in mood and anxiety disorders. This manuscript will: (1) present empirical evidence supporting the promise of PAT as an intervention for AN; (2) highlight nuances in the maintaining processes of AN that necessitate adaptations of PAT for this population; and (3) suggest future directions in research on PAT and other reward-based treatments that aim to enhance clinical outcomes for AN.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number63
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health (Award numbers: K23MH112867, K23MH123910, T32MH082761), Klarman Family Foundation, Hilda and Preston Davis Foundation, and University of Minnesota Foundation. These funding agencies did not influence the design of the study, collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, or writing of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Intervention
  • Neuroscience
  • Positive affect
  • Reward
  • Treatment

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Review


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