Unna Danner

Contact Information

Altrecht Eating Disorders Rintveld
Wenshoek 4
3705 WE Zeist

Tel: +31 (0)30 696 5477
E-mail: u.danner@altrecht.nl



In 2007 I obtained my PhD degree from the department of Social Psychology of Utrecht University. The focus of my PhD research was on cognitive processes underlying habitual behavior and in particular the role of inhibitory processes. Since I have always been interested in health related behavior, I happily accepted a position as PostDoc at Altrecht Eating Disorders Rintveld, part of Altrecht Mental Health Institute from 2007-2010. This was a collaboration with the department of Clinical and Health Psychology of Utrecht University. As part of my PostDoc position I supervised several Bachelor and Master theses and was involved in different courses. Since August 2010 I am working fulltime as a senior researcher at Altrecht Eating Disorders Rintveld. In addition to my own research, I coordinate the scientific projects at Altrecht Eating Disorders Rintveld, supervise master students in their thesis projects, and together with Annemarie van Elburg I focus on the translation of scientific findings to clinical practice. In addition, I am actively involved in the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED scientific committee) and Committee Scientific Research (CWO) of Altrecht Mental Health Institute.


The focus of my research in the past years was on the (neuro)cognitive functioning of patients with eating disorders. I am interested in the inflexible nature of patients with eating disorders as can be observed in their tendency to focus strongly on details (referring to weak central coherence) and difficulties changing behavior or multitasking (referring to impaired set shifting). So eating disordered patients are not only inflexible in their behavior and cognition, but also in their way of thinking, i.e. thinking styles. Since not all patients with eating disorders have an inflexible thinking style, I find it important to also examine relations with specific traits such as impulsivity. Having an inflexible thinking style, makes it difficult for patients to optimally profit from treatment. We therefore also examined a treatment module, Cognitive Remediation Therapy (CRT), aimed to improve this thinking style. Together with Alexandra Dingemans from the Center for Eating Disorders Ursula, I did a first randomized controlled trial to test the influence of CRT on the neurocognitive functioning of patients with chronic eating disorders (AN and BN). Results from this study led to the second RCT into the (cost)effectiveness of CRT for anorexia nervosa and obsessive-compulsive disorder in collaboration with Danielle Cath from the Altrecht Academic Anxiety center. We received a ZonMw Health care efficiency research grant and the study is currently running in Rintveld, Altrecht Anxiety, Ursula Eating Disorders and Overwaal Anxiety center (first results are expected in Spring 2016). An other (cognitive) topic I am interested in is impaired decision making ability of patients with eating disorders. This is most apparent in their eating behavior (not eating while having severe low weight), but is often also visible in other behaviors: Patients displaying binge-purge behaviors often also show comorbid substance abuse, self-harm or suicidal behavior, but also other behaviors such as risky financial or sexual behavior can be the result of difficulties making adequate decisions. Affective processes are important for adequate decision making, in particular in more complex situations and/or under uncertain conditions. Patients with eating disorders are known to have disturbances in their affective system and to have difficulties feeling, recognizing and regulating (negative) emotions. I therefore ran a few experiments aimed to test the influence of negative affect on decision making ability of patients with all types of eating disorder. I think it is important to consider the role of affect when studying decision making processes in individuals with eating disorders. In the future I hope to test if treatment modules aimed at improving emotion regulation skills will improve decision making ability. My interest in neurocognitive functioning is not limited to eating disorders. I am also involved in a large EU funded project, I.Family, with the aim to investigating the determinants of food choice, lifestyle and health in European children, adolescents and their parents. My role is this project is to examine neuropsychological profiles of children, adolescents and their parents and the relationship with different eating behaviors and, together with Roger Adan, with genetic polymorphisms. Since March Juul Coumans joined our team and she is now analyzing the results. For more information on this interesting project: http://www.ifamilystudy.eu/project-information/


Click here to view my articles on pubmed.

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