Characterising the homeostatic and neuro-computational mechanisms of anorexia nervosa


  • Dr Margaret Westwater

    University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

Project summary

Background: In anorexia nervosa (AN), patients continue limiting their food intake despite life-threatening weight loss. This suggests alterations in how patients perceive, or act on, the value of food. We know that the gut-brain pathways that signal food value are disrupted in AN. The key question is: How do gut-brain interactions influence value estimation and decision-making in AN? Approach: This study investigates this question over three stages. First, I will develop mathematical models to characterise how healthy individuals make decisions about food and monetary rewards. Second, I will optimise high-resolution brain imaging tools to examine the brain regions involved in these computations. Third, I will examine how these brain-behaviour relationships differ in AN patients, how gut hormones modulate them, and if they predict future symptoms. Impact: Findings will advance understanding of the drivers of food restriction in AN, which can, in turn, identify greatly needed new targets for clinical interventions.