Johanna Keeler – 2nd Year PhD student in Psychological Medicine at King’s College London. Collaboration between the Eating Disorders Research Group at King’s College London and the Translational Developmental Neuroscience Lab at the Technische Universität Dresden.
My PhD is focused on exploring neuroplasticity in patients with anorexia nervosa (AN), using an “integrative approach”, meaning that my research uses diverse methods to answer research questions relating to the factors that maintain and perpetuate AN. One of the key approaches to answering this question is to explore the structure of the brain in patients with AN, using structural magnetic resonance imaging. The TransDen team at the TUD are asking similar questions to those that I am interested in, and are using the aforementioned methods to answer these questions. During my 3-month visit to the TransDen lab, I was able to learn neuroimaging techniques and statistical approaches for analysing neuroimaging data. I conducted a project alongside my colleagues where I investigated the relationship between inflammatory molecules (i.e. pro-inflammatory cytokines) and growth factors (i.e. brain-derived neurotrophic factor), and the size of a particular brain structure called the hippocampus in patients with AN. The findings of this study converge with other research findings I have collated throughout my PhD, to further our understanding of the neurobiology of AN, and have generated more interesting research avenues for both the teams at the TUD and KCL.