Background: Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious psychiatric condition with the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. The factors that perpetuate and maintain the illness remain elusive and in particular, understanding surrounding the neurobiology of AN is underdeveloped. The starvation associated with AN leads to reductions in brain volume and endocrinological/immunological changes, which may change depending on illness stage as the brain rewires (i.e. neuroprogression) and represent a barrier to recovery.
Investigate features of neuroprogression in order to develop the staging model of anorexia nervosa, by:
Using a virtual histology approach on structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data to approximate regional vulnerability by illness stage
Investigating neuropsychological performance in tasks of memory and learning across the illness stages
Examining how changes in growth factors and pro-inflammatory cytokines are related to illness stage
Techniques and skills learnt:
Administration of neuropsychological tasks; MRI processing and data analysis; virtual histology analysis; meta-analysis; clinical assessment; study design; quality controlling of neuroimaging and molecular data.
Objectives per year:
Year 1: Systematic review/meta-analysis of brain changes in AN; obtaining ethical approval for use of pre-existing MRI data; planning of neuropsychological/molecular study
Year 2: Execution of neuropsychological/molecular study; analysis of MRI data
Year 3: Data analysis of main studies; revision of the staging model of AN