Kristin N. Javaras, DPhil, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and statistician whose research and clinical practice focus on eating disorders and other eating-related problems. Her research combines psychology, neuroscience, and epidemiology—and uses innovative methodology and technology—to better understand the development and maintenance of eating disorders and other eating-related problems, with the ultimate goal of developing more effective interventions.
Dr. Javaras’ current research is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and an Eleanor and Miles Shore HMS Fellowship. Previously, Dr. Javaras’ research has been supported by a Jonathan Edward Brooking Mental Health Research Scholar Award, a Rappaport Mental Health Research Scholar Award, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars grant from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and a Rhodes Scholarship.
Dr. Javaras conducts a combination of clinical, epidemiological, and methodological research that draws on her expertise as both a clinical psychologist and a statistician. These lines of research all focus on gaining a deeper understanding of the development and maintenance of mental health problems, especially those that are eating-related, with the ultimate goal of informing and improving interventions for these problems.
Dr. Javaras’ clinical research focuses on understanding the brain circuits underlying eating behavior in the general population and in individuals with eating disorders. The first step in this line of research has been the development of more accurate methods for measuring eating behavior, since accurate measurement is an essential feature of high-quality scientific research.
Most research relies on individuals to describe their own eating behavior, but the majority of people are not able to do so with great accuracy. Thus, Dr. Javaras has been working to develop novel, objective approaches to measuring eating behavior, both in the laboratory and in the real world. As part of efforts to better measure eating behavior in the real world, Dr. Javaras is piloting the use of cutting-edge, wearable technology that collects repeated, objective measurements as individuals go about their daily lives.
The second step in this line of research is using functional brain imaging to understand how individuals with eating disorders make decisions. This understanding is crucial for developing treatments that help people with eating disorders make everyday choices that promote recovery.
All of Dr. Javaras’ clinical research studies focus on including individuals with eating disorders from the broader community, rather than including only individuals who are in treatment. In the U.S., the vast majority of individuals with eating disorders unfortunately do not receive treatment. Thus, focusing on broader, community-based samples leads to more generalizable results, another essential feature of high-quality scientific research.
Dr. Javaras’ epidemiological research focuses on elucidating the biological and psychosocial risk factors for developing mental health problems, especially eating-related problems. To this end, Dr. Javaras has applied sophisticated and rigorous epidemiological tools to rich datasets collected by colleagues. This line of research has yielded a host of findings, including the first evidence that binge eating disorder is a heritable disease, which has subsequently been replicated in independent research.
Finally, Dr. Javaras’ methodological research focuses on developing novel statistical tools for rigorously investigating mental health problems. As one noteworthy example, Dr. Javaras has developed tools that use information from family members to shed light on the prevalence of, and risk factors for, a disease. These tools have enabled Dr. Javaras and other investigators to publish important findings about the epidemiology of psychiatric disorders, including information on the distribution and determinants of binge eating disorder.