Nancy Lee Zucker

Nancy Lee Zucker

Associate 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

Fuemmeler, Bernard F., et al. “Parental obesity moderates the relationship between childhood appetitive traits and weight.Obesity (Silver Spring), vol. 21, no. 4, Apr. 2013, pp. 815–23. Pubmed, doi:10.1002/oby.20144. Full Text

Zucker, N., et al. Emotions and empathic understanding: Capitalizing on relationships in those with eating disorders. Jan. 2013, pp. 52–61. Scopus, doi:10.4324/9780203816691. Full Text

Zucker, Nancy, et al. “Perception of affect in biological motion cues in anorexia nervosa.Int J Eat Disord, vol. 46, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 12–22. Pubmed, doi:10.1002/eat.22062. Full Text

Bloom, Taryn, et al. “A pilot evaluation of appetite-awareness training in the treatment of childhood overweight and obesity: a preliminary investigation.Int J Eat Disord, vol. 46, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 47–51. Pubmed, doi:10.1002/eat.22041. Full Text

Østbye, T., et al. “The effect of the home environment on physical activity and dietary intake in preschool children.” International Journal of Obesity, vol. 37, no. 10, 2013, pp. 1314–21. Scival, doi:10.1038/ijo.2013.76. Full Text

Merwin, Rhonda M., et al. “Emotion regulation difficulties in anorexia nervosa: Relationship to self-perceived sensory sensitivity.Cogn Emot, vol. 27, no. 3, 2013, pp. 441–52. Pubmed, doi:10.1080/02699931.2012.719003. Full Text

Østbye, Truls, et al. “Parent-focused change to prevent obesity in preschoolers: results from the KAN-DO study.Prev Med, vol. 55, no. 3, Sept. 2012, pp. 188–95. Pubmed, doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.06.005. Full Text

Wildes, Jennifer E., et al. “Picky eating in adults: results of a web-based survey.Int J Eat Disord, vol. 45, no. 4, May 2012, pp. 575–82. Pubmed, doi:10.1002/eat.20975. Full Text

Boutelle, Kerri N., et al. “Two novel treatments to reduce overeating in overweight children: a randomized controlled trial.J Consult Clin Psychol, vol. 79, no. 6, Dec. 2011, pp. 759–71. Pubmed, doi:10.1037/a0025713. Full Text

Zucker, N., et al. “Neuropsychological aspects of eating disorders.” Psychiatric Annals, vol. 41, no. 11, Nov. 2011, pp. 539–46. Scopus, doi:10.3928/00485713-20111017-07. Full Text