Research Updates - March 2019

Eating disorders

Eating disorders are associated with premature ageing and earlier onset of age-related diseases such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. The research department of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services are currently investigating the effect of eating disorders on the ageing process.

Objective measures of ageing include the examination of structures within the cells in our bodies called telomeres and mitochondriae. These cellular structures can be investigated by analysing blood samples. The effects of prolonged dietary restriction on these structures within our cells may mediate these adverse outcomes.

The study, Impact of Eating Disorders on Biological Ageing started recruiting in August 2018. 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 duration and severity of illness on these structures within our cells. Recruitment for this study is due to be completed in June 2019 and blood samples will then be analysed.

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.


Meanwhile, recruitment for AMBER-Dep (Autobiographical Memory and Depression) is ongoing. This study aims to investigate the effects of depression on autobiographical memory. This refers to personal memories about one’s own life acquired in the past. With the passage of time, such personal memories may begin to fade. However, it is not clear how the extent of this loss differs between healthy and depressed people. Furthermore, it is not known how treatments used for depression affect memory. Such treatments include electroconvulsive treatment (ECT), a well-established and medically safe treatment for depression.

In the AMBER-Dep study, three groups of participants are 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). Service users have been very enthusiastic to date about becoming involved in the study.

The results of this study will improve our understanding of memory, depression and ECT and will help advances in the treatment for severe depression.

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Advocacy Update - March 2019

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