Valerie Upshaw (left) and Dr. Sahib Khalsa (right) are working on research to help treat anxiety and eating disorders. courtesy Laureate Institute for Brain Research

LIBR researches eating disorders

An ongoing LIBR study seeks to understand mental conditions regarding eating disorders.

Valerie Upshaw, a registered nurse and Clinical Research Coordinator, works on multiple studies at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research. Her job is to help conduct studies run by Principal Investigator Sahib Khalsa that focus on people who currently have or used to have eating disorders.

Dr. Khalsa is Director of Clinical Studies and Assistant Professor at LIBR and is also a volunteer faculty member at the University of Tulsa. According to the LIBR website, he graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from The State University of New York in Stony Brook in 2002 and received his M.D. and Ph.D. in neuroscience in 2009 from the University of Iowa.

Upshaw spoke of the many studies that Khalsa is currently conducting, which observe and monitor patients who suffer with anxiety and eating disorders. Eating disorders, specifically anorexia, are Dr. Khalsa’s main focus of study because, according to Upshaw, the mortality rate of eating disorders compared to other mental health diagnoses is much higher and “one of the areas that are least focused [on] throughout the mental health community.”

Upshaw explained that the study is “interested in people who have symptoms of worry that affect their daily life and sleep.” Anxiety and eating disorders can relate to each other and the study monitors how being worried affects these mental disorders. She spoke about a few of the studies being conducted at LIBR and what each study monitored.

In one study, the Brain and Body Dysfunctions Eating Disorder study, the patient is put into an MRI where they are given different tasks to do while in the machine. Upshaw says that, in this particular study, they are trying to see if the actions relate to inner-body sensations to try to figure out where in the brain these sensations are processed.
In another, the Float study, the patient floats in a large one-foot-deep pool with 2,000 pounds of Epsom salt. The main focus of this study is to look and see if this technique of relaxing in the pool could help with anxiety, eating disorders or self-image issues.

University of Tulsa students are invited to participate in the study and be compensated for their time. Participation entails floating in a pool, MRIs and answering questions on one’s physical and mental states before and after the treatment. Patients do not have to be medically diagnosed with any type of eating or anxiety disorder to sign up for the study. The study is also looking for healthy individuals who do not experience any symptoms of an eating disorder to be the control group of the study.

According to LIBR, the study is open to people who are:

• 18 years and older.
• Can understand enough English to complete the interviews and answer questions.
• Have access to a computer.
• NOT an international student visa. This is due to restrictions on international students’ research compensation.
• NOT currently experiencing severe/unstable health issues that need immediate medical attention.

The length of each study ranges from one day to several weeks. Call the number provided below to receive more information on the study.

Emergency Hotlines

Local Crisis Line: 918-293-2100
National 24/7 Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433
True Blue Neighbors Behavioral Health Clinic: 918-631-3342
Alexander Health Center: 918-631-2241
Campus Security: 918-631-5555
Domestic Violence Intervention Service: 918-585-3163

If interested, call 918-502-5100.

Post Author: Brooke-Lyne Holland