New approaches to understanding social cognition in anorexia nervosa


  • Dr Jenni Leppanen

    King's College London

Project summary

Anorexia nervosa is a complex disorder with a high mortality rate and a poor response to treatment. Social and emotional difficulties have been suggested to contribute to treatment resistance in people with anorexia by heightening social anxiety and increasing reliance on behaviours that enforce the eating disorder as a coping mechanism. Therefore, there is a pressing need for better understanding of the processes that underlie these difficulties in people with anorexia.

I aim to develop new, naturalistic paradigms to assess behavioural and brain responses to key aspects of social cognition, such as interpretation biases and atypical emotional reactivity. I will also build new statistical models to improve the understanding of brain processes that underlie these social and emotional difficulties in people with anorexia and explore biomarkers of illness outcome. These new methods will be applied to a large case-control study of 140 young people aged 18-25 with and without anorexia.

My studies will provide valuable insights into the key difficulties in acute AN and their impact on prognosis.