First Message From the Karolinska Institute (KI) in Stockholm

Published: February 11, 2015

This is the first in a series of blog posts from our developing team at the Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Stockholm, Sweden. Dr. Bulik will be spending half of her time at the KI as a Professor in the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and building a bridge between the teams at UNC and the KI. These capsule posts are designed to introduce the team members and give you a glimpse of the research they are conducting. Our first post is from Dr. Elisabeth Welch, a post-doctoral fellow.

My nameWelch%20bild is Elisabeth Welch. I am clinical psychologist with experience in working with eating disorders. I received my PhD from Uppsala University, Sweden in May 2014. My main research interest lies in understanding the etiology behind eating disorders, and especially anorexia nervosa. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my husband and three kids. As well, I love spending time outdoors and practicing yoga!

Together with Professors Cynthia Bulik and Ata Ghaderi, also here at the Karolinska Institutet, and other researchers across Europe and in the United States, we are about to embark on a unique and exciting research project on anorexia nervosa.  Despite descriptions of anorexia nervosa that date back more than a hundred years, we still do not have an adequate understanding of why people develop AN.  With the goal of shedding some light on this topic we are launching a study in Stockholm, Sweden that we call “Comprehensive Risk Evaluation for Anorexia Nervosa in Twins” or CREAT.

Our study will rely on a world resource, namely the Swedish Twin Registry, to identify monozygotic (or identical) twins who are discordant for lifetime anorexia nervosa. That means that one twin had anorexia nervosa at some point in her or his life, but their genetically identical co-twin never had anorexia or any other eating disorder. This is intriguing because for most intents and purposes, MZ twins are genetically identical. Traits that emerge in the affected but not the unaffected twin provide valuable insight into factors that can lead to expression of genetic predispositions.

In CREAT we will use a multimodal approach, including genetics, epigenetics, neurocognitive testing, brain imaging, and tracking of metabolic responses to food to compare these twins. By gaining a better understanding of the genetic and neurobiological underpinnings of AN and environmental and personality variables as well, our ability to prevent and treat AN will be greatly enhanced. CREAT is funded by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet).