This K-23 Mentored Patient-Oriented Career Development Award application requests support to provide training for the applicant to become a neuroimaging researcher in human cognitive neuroscience specializing in understanding the illness, anorexia nervosa and to perform a research project that will investigate the linkages between neural correlates of social thinking and the pathology of anorexia nervosa. During residency, the applicant's research background as a cortical neurophysiologist led her to begin a pilot project utilizing functional neuroimaging tasks in eating disorders. This project identified three cortical regions with different activation in thinking about one's own self-identity and understanding relationships between others in patients in the process of recovering from anorexia nervosa. The proposed project will now examine the activation of these regions: the cingulate, the precuneus, and the temporoparietal junction in three different subject groups: healthy controls, currently ill anorexia nervosa patients, and fully recovered anorexia nervosa patients. These comparisons will improve our understanding of cortical changes associated with illness and recovery in anorexia nervosa. In addition to the neuroimaging data, each participant will complete assessments providing psychiatric and medical history, psychological scales related to the fMRI tasks, and neurocognitive measures. Activation of these neural regions by the fMRI tasks will also be correlated with the assessments to distinguish between cortical differences that relate specifically to the presence of the illness and differences that relate to other psychological measures and may reflect a trait of patients that have anorexia nervosa. These studies will allow the applicant to meet her immediate career goal: development as an independent translational neuroimaging researcher in anorexia nervosa. With this study and training, the applicant will be prepared to meet her long-term career goal of becoming an independent investigator examining the relationship between biological mechanisms and psychological function in both the development and resolution of anorexia nervosa.
Anorexia nervosa is a serious psychiatric illness afflicting approximately 1% of adolescent and young adult women for which both causes and treatments are not understood. This research project examines how neural activation of cortical areas related to social thinking and identity differ between individuals with anorexia nervosa and individuals who have recovered from anorexia nervosa. This study will also improve our understanding of the relationship between psychological and biological factors in anorexia nervosa.
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