Research Updates - June 2019

Eating Disorders

Premature aging and the earlier onset of age-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, are associated with eating disorders, and can have serious consequences for patients. As such, the research team at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services is currently investigating the markers of ageing, including telomeres and mitchondriae, in a cohort of patients living with anorexia nervosa.

Recruitment for this cross-sectional, case control study, Impact of Eating Disorders on Biological Ageing, started in August 2018 and finished in April 2019. The main purpose of the study is to compare blood samples between patients with eating disorders and healthy controls, and to explore the effect of the duration and severity of illness on structures within our cells.

In total, 56 participants took part in this study. Biological samples are now in the process of being analysed using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The results of this study will provide further information on the biological effects on eating disorders on the body, and guide treatment plans for patients.


The AMBER-DEP (Autobiographical Memory and Depression) study aims to investigate the effects of depression on autobiographical memory, or personal memories about one’s own life acquired in the past. Recruitment for the study concluded in May 2019, with over 160 participants taking part in this research.

Personal memories often begin to fade over the course of time; however, it remains unclear how the extent of this loss differs between healthy people and those living with depression. It is also unknown how treatments for depression – such as electroconvulsive treatment (ECT), a well-established and medically safe treatment for depression - affect memory.

Three groups of participants took part in the AMBER-Dep study, compared on clinical measures of mood and memory over the course of four months: healthy participants (a measure of the effect of time on memory), depressed participants not receiving ECT (a measure of the effect of low mood on memory), and depressed participants receiving ECT (a measure of the effect of ECT on memory).

Data from the study is now being analysed, and its results will enhance our understanding of memory, depression and ECT, while also advancing treatment for severe depression.