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Nancy Lee Zucker, PhD

Associate Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Division: 
Child & Family Mental Health & Developmental Neuroscience
Category: 
Office: 905 W. Main Street, Suite 22B Brightleaf Square, Durham, NC 27701
Campus Mail: DUMC Box 3454 Med Ctr, Durham, NC 27710

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 and Training

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

Publications

Reinhardt, Kristen M., Noga Zerubavel, Anna S. Young, Mavis Gallo, Nikita Ramakrishnan, Alexandra Henry, and Nancy L. Zucker. “A multi-method assessment of interoception among sexual trauma survivors.” Physiology & Behavior 226 (November 2020): 113108. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2020.113108.

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Datta, Nandini, Tatyana Bidopia, Samir Datta, Gaurie Mittal, Franca Alphin, Elizabeth J. Marsh, Gavan J. Fitzsimons, Timothy J. Strauman, and Nancy L. Zucker. “Meal skipping and cognition along a spectrum of restrictive eating.” Eat Behav 39 (September 7, 2020): 101431. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2020.101431.

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Calland, Alyssa R., Ilene C. Siegler, Paul T. Costa, Leanna M. Ross, Nancy Zucker, Robin French, Elizabeth Hauser, and Kim M. Huffman. “Associations of self-reported eating disorder behaviors and personality in a college-educated sample.” Appetite 151 (August 1, 2020): 104669. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2020.104669.

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Fuemmeler, Bernard F., Yaou Sheng, Julia C. Schechter, Elizabeth Do, Nancy Zucker, Alesha Majors, Rachel Maguire, Susan K. Murphy, Cathrine Hoyo, and Scott H. Kollins. “Associations between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms and eating behaviors in early childhood.” Pediatr Obes 15, no. 7 (July 2020): e12631. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijpo.12631.

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Schuette, Stephanie A., Nancy L. Zucker, and Moria J. Smoski. “Do interoceptive accuracy and interoceptive sensibility predict emotion regulation?” Psychol Res, June 16, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-020-01369-2.

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Zucker, Nancy L., and Sheryl O. Hughes. “The Persistence of Picky Eating: Opportunities to Improve Our Strategies and Messaging.” Pediatrics 145, no. 6 (June 2020). https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-0893.

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Zucker, Nancy L., and Cynthia M. Bulik. “On bells, saliva, and abdominal pain or discomfort: Early aversive visceral conditioning and vulnerability for anorexia nervosa.” Int J Eat Disord 53, no. 4 (April 2020): 508–12. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.23255.

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Zickgraf, Hana F., Emily Richard, Nancy L. Zucker, and Gregory L. Wallace. “Rigidity and Sensory Sensitivity: Independent Contributions to Selective Eating in Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults.” J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol, March 19, 2020, 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2020.1738236.

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Surwit, Richard S., Redford B. Williams, Ilene C. Siegler, James D. Lane, Michael Helms, Katherine L. Applegate, Nancy Zucker, Mark N. Feinglos, Cynthia M. McCaskill, and John C. Barefoot. “Erratum. Hostility, race, and glucose metabolism in nondiabetic individuals. Diabetes Care 2002;25:835-839.” Diabetes Care 43, no. 3 (March 2020): 691. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc20-er03.

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Amoroso, C. R., E. K. Hanna, K. S. LaBar, J. Schaich Borg, W. Sinnott-Armstrong, and N. L. Zucker. “Disgust Theory Through the Lens of Psychiatric Medicine.” Clinical Psychological Science 8, no. 1 (January 1, 2020): 3–24. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702619863769.

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