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

Goldschmidt, Andrea, et al. “Overvaluation of shape and weight among overweight children and adolescents with loss of control eating.Behav Res Ther, vol. 49, no. 10, Oct. 2011, pp. 682–88. Pubmed, doi:10.1016/j.brat.2011.07.011. Full Text

Zucker, Nancy L., et al. “Hemodynamic signals of mixed messages during a social exchange.Neuroreport, vol. 22, no. 9, June 2011, pp. 413–18. Pubmed, doi:10.1097/WNR.0b013e3283455c23. Full Text

Ostbye, Truls, et al. “Kids and adults now! Defeat Obesity (KAN-DO): rationale, design and baseline characteristics.Contemp Clin Trials, vol. 32, no. 3, May 2011, pp. 461–69. Pubmed, doi:10.1016/j.cct.2011.01.017. Full Text

Zucker, Nancy, et al. “The significance of repetitive hair-pulling behaviors in eating disorders.J Clin Psychol, vol. 67, no. 4, Apr. 2011, pp. 391–403. Pubmed, doi:10.1002/jclp.20770. Full Text

Merwin, Rhonda M., et al. “Psychological inflexibility and symptom expression in anorexia nervosa.Eat Disord, vol. 19, no. 1, Jan. 2011, pp. 62–82. Pubmed, doi:10.1080/10640266.2011.533606. Full Text

Zucker, Nancy L., et al. “Incorporating dispositional traits into the treatment of anorexia nervosa.Curr Top Behav Neurosci, vol. 6, 2011, pp. 289–314. Pubmed, doi:10.1007/7854_2010_92. Full Text Open Access Copy

Merwin, R. M., et al. “Interoceptive awareness in eating disorders: Distinguishing lack of clarity from non-acceptance of internal experience.” Cognition and Emotion, vol. 24, no. 5, July 2010, pp. 892–902. Scopus, doi:10.1080/02699930902985845. Full Text

Bravender, T., et al. “Classification of eating disturbance in children and adolescents: proposed changes for the DSM-V.Eur Eat Disord Rev, vol. 18, no. 2, Mar. 2010, pp. 79–89. Pubmed, doi:10.1002/erv.994. Full Text

Treasure, Janet, et al. “Eating disorders.Lancet, vol. 375, no. 9714, Feb. 2010, pp. 583–93. Pubmed, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61748-7. Full Text

Watson, Karli K., et al. “Altered social reward and attention in anorexia nervosa.Front Psychol, vol. 1, 2010, p. 36. Pubmed, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00036. Full Text