Anorexia nervosa (AN) typically begins in adolescence. ~ 30% of patients respond poorly to psychotherapies, resulting in enduring illness. Brain-based models of AN propose that a core problem relates to the cognitive control of emotional processes: accordingly, most treatments (including talking therapies) seek to alter cognitive functioning/ emotion regulation. However, treatment success is ~50%, i.e. there is a need for improvement. The continuing development of brain based interventions provides a way forward.
For many years, we have conducted non-invasive brain stimulation treatments in AN: evidence is indicative of their therapeutic benefit. Protocols are safe, well tolerated and similar to those used in depression. The mode of action of these procedures is unclear but our broad hypothesis is that neuromodulation promotes neuroplastic changes i.e. it enables changes to occur at the cognition-emotion interface. There are a range of clinical/procedural issues associated with this emerging field e.g. whether the procedures are best as standalone or adjunct therapies, duration of treatment effects etc. There are also academic questions related to the establishment of associated structural and functional brain changes.
The student will be part of the Centre for Research in Eating and Weight Disorders and the Centre for Neuroimaging. They will learn about eating disorders, neuromodulation and associated clinical/neurocognitive studies and functional and structural neuroimaging. They will be taught project specific skills (assessment of eating disorders, neuromodulation protocols, the conduct and analysis of neuroimaging protocols and clinical/neurocognitive tasks).
A training needs analysis will be conducted with the student. The student will attend transferrable skills training (as required). Objectives: Year 1: The student will familiarise themselves with the project and write a systematic review e.g. on neuro-imaging outcomes in neuromodulation in eating disorders. Year 2: They will participate in data acquisition related to the ongoing RCT. Year 3: Data analysis, paper writing, thesis completion.