Looking for eating disorder support in your area? Visit HelpFinder

Interoception in eating disorders, autism, and alexithymia

Names of researchers: Kiera Louise Adams and Geoffrey Bird

Affiliation: Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

Email address:

Who can take part?

To take part in this study, you should be aged 18 or over and speak English fluently. You should also either have an IPhone 8 or newer, or be willing to be sent one for the duration of this study. Paying attention to your heart rate should also not make you anxious.

To participate, you must also be in one of the following groups:

  • You do not have any psychiatric diagnosis or use psychotropic medication.


  • You have a clinical diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.


  • You have a clinical diagnosis of an eating disorder.

There will be a short screening questionnaire to make sure you meet these criteria.

What is the purpose of the research?

Interoception is our ability to sense our body’s internal signals (for example, our heart beat and how hungry we are). Interoception has been linked to eating disorders. It also has been linked to autism and alexithymia (a sub-clinical condition where people struggle to describe their emotions). In both autistic and alexithymic individuals, rates of eating disorders are a lot higher than in the general population. It could be that interoception is driving this relationship. We are aiming to test this in our study. By gaining a greater understanding of these associations, we can work on developing better therapies and interventions for those with eating disorders.

What does the study involve?

This study involves either:

  • Smartphone based questionnaires and tasks that take around two hours to complete in total.
  • The same smartphone tasks as above, PLUS a two hour long laboratory visit where you complete the same activities as you would in the mobile task.

The questionnaires will cover topics such as your mental health, how much attention you pay to signals in your body, how accurate you are at recognising these signals, how well you can describe your emotions, and your gender and age.

Tasks will include short verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests, and activities where your heartrate is measured and compared to your estimates of how fast your heart is beating.

How will risks be mitigated?

All questions will be optional, and participants are encouraged not to answer questions that make them feel distressed or uncomfortable. You can end the study at any time, and elect for your data to be deleted. There is one question that asks about participants' weight. This question explicitly states that participants should not answer if they have been advised by doctors to not weigh themselves, or if weighing themselves would cause them distress. This was decided after discussions with eating disorder clinicians. For the laboratory study, there is the option for participants to be weighed in the laboratory, but again, this is not compulsory and participants can also have the option of stepping on the scales backwards, or with their eyes closed. There is a short eligibility questionnaire before the study. If participants indicate that paying attention to internal signals like their heart rate might cause them to panic, they will not be eligible for the study.

How can someone take part?

If you are interested and would like more information, please contact Kiera Adams at There is no obligation to take part.