Nancy Lee Zucker

Nancy Lee Zucker

Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

External Address: 
905 W. Main Street, Suite 22B Brightleaf Square, Durham, NC 27701
Internal Office Address: 
Box 3454 Med Ctr, Durham, NC 27710
Office Hours:


Our laboratory studies individuals who have difficulty detecting, interpreting, and/or using signals from their body and using this information to guide adaptive behavior.  We explore how disruptions in these capacities contribute to psychosomatic disorders such as functional abdominal pain or anorexia nervosa and how the adaptive development of these capacities helps individuals to know themselves, trust themselves, and flourish.

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 or conditions in which disruption in these processes may be more likely: such as the presence of pediatric pain. 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, Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), children with "sensory superpowers" who may be hypersensitive to somatic signals and external sensory features; and pediatric functional abdominal pain, children who may become afraid of their bodies' messages due to generalization of fear of pain to innocuous sensations. 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. What we most passionate about is using this conceptualization to design and test novel treatments that enable individuals across the lifespan to feel safe in their bodies and to achieve this in a way that is fun.

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.

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge 2000

Selected Grants

Duke Summer Training in Academic Research (Duke's STAR) BIOGEN awarded by Biogen Foundation (Investigator). 2021 to 2023

Administrative Supplement: SCH: INT: Computational Tools for Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co-Principal Investigator). 2019 to 2022

Maternal obesity, child executive functions and child weight gain awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co Investigator). 2015 to 2022

A Mind Body Approach to ARFID in Young Children: Food and Body Investigators awarded by Global Foundation for Eating Disorders (Principal Investigator). 2018 to 2021

Feelings and Body Investigators: Interoceptive Exposure for Children with Abdominal Pain awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2019

NYU-Duke Lifespan Mental Health Assessment Collaborative awarded by New York University (Principal Investigator). 2018

Defining Remission and Recovery in Eating Disorders awarded by University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill (Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2017

Eating Disorders in Type 1 Diabetes: Mechanisms of Comorbidity awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co Investigator). 2011 to 2015


Zucker, N., et al. “Loss of control eating in children.” Eating Disorders and Obesity in Children and Adolescents, 2018, pp. 35–38. Scopus, doi:10.1016/B978-0-323-54852-6.00006-9. Full Text

Zucker, N., et al. “Selective eating: Normative developmental phase or clinical condition?The Oxford Handbook of Eating Disorders, 2017, pp. 419–37. Scopus, doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190620998.013.23. Full Text

Sweeney, C., et al. “Family-based treatment for prodromal anorexia nervosa.” Family Therapy for Adolescent Eating and Weight Disorders: New Applications, 2015, pp. 157–76. Scopus, doi:10.4324/9781315882444. Full Text

Sweeney, C., et al. “Family-based treatment for prodromal anorexia nervosa.” Family Therapy for Adolescent Eating and Weight Disorders: New Applications, 2015, pp. 157–76. Scopus, doi:10.4324/9781315882444-17. Full Text

Zucker, N. “Emotional experience and regulation in eating disorders: Theory, evidence, and translational application to family treatment.” Family Therapy for Adolescent Eating and Weight Disorders: New Applications, 2015, pp. 328–58. Scopus, doi:10.4324/9781315882444-23. Full Text

Zucker, N., and C. Harshaw. “Emotion, Attention, and Relationships: A Developmental Model of Self-Regulation in Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disordered Eating Behaviors.” The Oxford Handbook of Child and Adolescent Eating Disorders Developmental Perspectives, 2012. Scopus, doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199744459.013.0005. Full Text

Breslav, Alexander D. S., et al. “Shuffle the Decks: Children Are Sensitive to Incidental Nonrandom Structure in a Sequential-Choice Task.Psychol Sci, vol. 33, no. 4, Apr. 2022, pp. 550–62. Pubmed, doi:10.1177/09567976211042007. Full Text

Gupta, Arpana, et al. “Complex functional brain network properties in anorexia nervosa.Journal of Eating Disorders, vol. 10, no. 1, Feb. 2022, p. 13. Epmc, doi:10.1186/s40337-022-00534-9. Full Text

Kim, Young Kyung, et al. “Parent strategies for expanding food variety: Reflections of 19,239 adults with symptoms of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.Int J Eat Disord, vol. 55, no. 1, Jan. 2022, pp. 108–19. Pubmed, doi:10.1002/eat.23639. Full Text

Neshteruk, Cody D., et al. “Weight-Related Behaviors of Children with Obesity during the COVID-19 Pandemic.Child Obes, vol. 17, no. 6, Sept. 2021, pp. 371–78. Pubmed, doi:10.1089/chi.2021.0038. Full Text

Schuette, Stephanie A., et al. “Do interoceptive accuracy and interoceptive sensibility predict emotion regulation?Psychol Res, vol. 85, no. 5, July 2021, pp. 1894–908. Pubmed, doi:10.1007/s00426-020-01369-2. Full Text

Stein, Kate, et al. “Do children with recurrent abdominal pain grow up to become adolescents who control their weight by fasting? Results from a UK population-based cohort.Int J Eat Disord, vol. 54, no. 6, June 2021, pp. 915–24. Pubmed, doi:10.1002/eat.23513. Full Text

Nicholas, Julia K., et al. “The diagnosis of avoidant restrictive food intake disorder in the presence of gastrointestinal disorders: Opportunities to define shared mechanisms of symptom expression.Int J Eat Disord, vol. 54, no. 6, June 2021, pp. 995–1008. Pubmed, doi:10.1002/eat.23536. Full Text

Ives, Lindsay T., et al. “Children's Beliefs about Pain: An Exploratory Analysis.Children (Basel), vol. 8, no. 6, May 2021. Pubmed, doi:10.3390/children8060452. Full Text

Zelkowitz, Rachel L., et al. “Longitudinal associations of trauma exposure with disordered eating: Lessons from the Great Smoky Mountains Study.Eat Disord, vol. 29, no. 3, May 2021, pp. 208–25. Pubmed, doi:10.1080/10640266.2021.1921326. Full Text

Wallace, Gregory L., et al. “Increased emotional eating behaviors in children with autism: Sex differences and links with dietary variety.Autism, vol. 25, no. 3, Apr. 2021, pp. 603–12. Pubmed, doi:10.1177/1362361320942087. Full Text


Kass, Andrea E., et al. “Secretive eating among youth with overweight or obesity.Appetite, vol. 114, 2017, pp. 275–81. Pubmed, doi:10.1016/j.appet.2017.03.042. Full Text