Thomas, Kai

Thomas, Kai
Start date:
October 2017
Research Topic:
Neural and behavioural correlates of disordered eating in children
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Dr Ross Vanderwert
Supervising school:
School of Psychology,
Primary funding source:

Eating disorders typically develop during adolescence, with reports of a prominent increase in incidence from 11-12 years to 12-13 years (3.56 to 9.51/100,000 respectively; Nicholls, Lynn & Viner, 2011). Children around 12 years of age have been found to display eating disorder symptoms that are at similar levels to those found in late adolescence (Wichstrøm, 2000). In addition, eating disorder symptoms during childhood and early adolescence have been found to increase the risk of developing clinical eating disorders in late adolescence (Evans et al., 2017). The implication of this is that in order to develop our understanding of how clinical eating disorders develop during this time period and design interventions for treatment, research first needs to explore risk factors for eating disorder symptoms earlier in adolescence to identify risk factors and predictors.

The main aim of this research is to identify and explore the factors that are associated with eating disorder symptoms in children, and how they may change across time through a two-part longitudinal study. A range of techniques including EEG, cognitive tasks and parent-child interactions will be utilised to explore a variety of areas including emotional regulation, attention and social interactions.

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About Kai Thomas

My research aims to understand the neural mechanisms of Anorexia Nervosa (AN) through the use of EEG and behavioural techniques. Previous research has identified impairments in areas of executive functioning, such as set shifting and central coherence (Treasure & Schmidt, 2013). This results in rigid dieting behaviour, obsessive rule following and restricted information processing in AN. This obsessive-compulsive trait mechanism, alongside neuroscience evidence, suggests potential links between anxiety disorders, specifically obsessive-compulsive disorder, and AN through shared attentional deficits.