A biomarker for anorexia nervosa

Unique findings from the Centre for Mental Health's recent research have identified a promising biomarker for anorexia nervosa.

In this work, distinctive eye movement abnormalities called square wave jerks - tiny, involuntary and unconscious ‘twitching’ eye movements - were identified in individuals with anorexia nervosa. The neural circuitry involved in eye movement production is well defined, and eye movement assessments have proven useful for identifying brain regions and brain chemicals of dysfunction in other illnesses.

Establishing a biomarker for an illness provides a number of benefits including:

  • early identification of an illness
  • the potential to identify those at risk of developing an illness
  • less reliance on descriptions of symptoms from patients when making diagnoses
  • potential targets for neurobiological treatments including medications and non-invasive brain stimulation techniques.

Biomarkers for mental illness are severely lacking despite being essential for accurate diagnosis, providing targets for treatment and identifying those with or at risk of developing an illness. For an illness associated with such severe consequences as anorexia nervosa, a biomarker is critical.

We are currently undertaking further developmental work to establish the utility of this promising biomarker for identifying people with anorexia nervosa.

How to participate

For further information on how to participate in this research, please contact: 

Dr Andrea Phillipou
e: andreaphillipou@swinburne.edu.au

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