The ENGAGE-2 study: Engaging self-regulation targets to understand the mechanisms of behavior change and improve mood and weight outcomes in a randomized controlled trial (Phase 2)

Contemp Clin Trials. 2020 Aug;95:106072. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2020.106072. Epub 2020 Jul 2.


Despite evidence for effective integrated behavior therapy for treating comorbid obesity and depression, treatment response is highly variable and the underlying neurobiological mechanisms remain unknown. This hampers efforts to identify mechanistic targets in order to optimize treatment precision and potency. Funded within the NIH Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) Research Network, the 2-phased ENGAGE research project applies an experimental precision medicine approach to address this gap. The Phase 1 study focused on demonstrating technical feasibility, target engagement and potential neural mechanisms of responses to an integrated behavior therapy. This therapy combines a video-based behavioral weight loss program and problem-solving therapy for depression, with as-needed intensification of antidepressant medications, and its clinical effectiveness was demonstrated within a parent randomized clinical trial. Here, we describe the ENGAGE Phase 2 (ENGAGE-2) study protocol which builds on Phase 1 in 2 ways: (1) pilot testing of an motivational interviewing-enhanced, integrated behavior therapy in an independent, primarily minority patient sample, and (2) evaluation of a priori defined neural targets, specifically the negative affect (threat and sadness) circuits which demonstrated engagement and malleability in Phase 1, as mediators of therapeutic outcomes. Additionally, the Phase 2 study includes a conceptual and methodological extension to explore the role of microbiome-gut-brain and systemic immunological pathways in integrated behavioral treatment of obesity and depression. This protocol paper documents the conceptualization, design and the transdisciplinary methodologies in ENGAGE-2, which can inform future clinical and translational research in experimental precision medicine for behavior change and chronic disease management. Trial registration: #NCT 03,841,682.

Trial registration: NCT03841682.

Keywords: Affective circuits; Behavior change; Behavioral weight loss treatment; Cytokines; Depression; Integrated treatment; Microbiome; Neural circuitry; Neuroimaging; Obesity; Precision medicine; Problem solving therapy; Psychotherapy; Randomized clinical trial; Self-regulation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Humans
  • Obesity* / therapy
  • Self-Control*


  • Antidepressive Agents

Associated data