Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #59
CE Offered: BACB
Induction and the Provenance of the Activity Anorexia Cycle
Saturday, May 27, 2023
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Convention Center Four Seasons Ballroom 2/3
Area: EAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Marco Vasconcelos (University of Aveiro)
CE Instructor: Ricardo Pellon, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: RICARDO PELLON (Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia)

Anorexia nervosa is a disorder characterized by the high failure of treatment approaches, both psychological and pharmacological. The low rate of clinical success may be due to a mischaracterization in most commonly used classifications, which implies a therapeutic approach focused on non-nuclear symptoms and delayed diagnosis. Some authors point out that core symptomatology of food rejection and distortions in the body image could develop in late stages and be the result of the neurological affectation of malnutrition, rather than the cause of the disorder. The activity-based anorexia protocol has been widely accepted as an animal model of the disorder and has been used to test possible treatments for anorexia nervosa. There is experimental evidence in activity anorexia suggesting that excessive activity is a crucial factor in the development of the phenomenon. The aim of this presentation is to review the results from animal research using the activity-based anorexia model with an emphasis on the evidence and possible explanatory mechanisms of excessive activity. Results obtained in our laboratory suggest that the combination of food restriction and exercise is the way to develop anorexia. Increased activity is a common foraging response in mammals subjected to food restriction. This activity is expressed more frequently under diet, which facilitates its subsequent increase by mechanisms of reinforcement and induction. It has been proposed that the contingencies established by western culture encourage people to be involved in exercise and diet regimes, which in some individuals may lead to the combination of strong food restriction and hyperactivity, initiating the cycle of anorexia. These results are in line with historical descriptions of the disorder and new clinical and research evidence that reports an excessive physical activity in a high proportion of diagnosed patients. The proposed theoretical view will be based on basic and clinical research data of several studies that point in a similar direction, to propose a framework that can guide future research and clinical approaches to anorexia nervosa.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

People interested in behavioral approaches to eating disorders.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) evaluate the validity of an animal model of anorexia nervosa; (2) distinguish different theoretical interpretations and their key components; (3) predict results from the conceptual understanding of the phenomenon of activity anorexia.
RICARDO PELLON (Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia)
Ricardo Pellón got the Degree in Psychology in 1980 and in 1987 defended his PhD in the area of Experimental Psychology, both at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain). He has held research positions at University of Wales College of Cardiff, UK (1981-1984) and the Addiction Research Centre of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Baltimore, USA (1990-1991). In 2005-2006 he spent a sabbatical leave at Arizona State University, USA. He is currently Professor of Psychology at Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Madrid, Spain, where he directs an Animal Learning and Behaviour Lab working predominantly (but not exclusively) on animal models of excessive behavior, such as schedule-induced polydipsia and activity-based anorexia, both using laboratory rats as experimental subjects. He has published in international journals in the areas of learning and behavior, behavioral pharmacology, and neural substrates of behavior. He has supervised 14 PhD thesis in different Spanish universities and is currently supervising 7 PhD students at UNED. He has served as external examiner in many committees, including 43 PhD dissertations. For more information, please check the website:,698044&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL



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