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PROJECT EPRIME focuses on eating disorders and USES BEHAVIORAL AND NEURAL DATA OBTAINED AS PATIENTS RESPOND TO COGNITIVE TASKS WITH THE PURPOSE OF UNDERSTANDING DIFFERENCES THAT IMPACT RISK AND MAINTENANCE OF SYMPTOMS.

BACKGROUND on eating disorders

  • Eating disorders of some time affect approximately 10-15% of the American population

  • Eating disorders are diagnosed predominantly in women, suggesting the potential for a biological mechanism

  • Eating disorders can result in a myriad of negative effects ranging from fatigue to gastric rupture and from tooth decay to muscle loss

  • Anorexia nervosa (one example of an eating disorder) has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness

THE PROJECT

The Neural Function in Eating Disorders Project is currently conducting trials where patients are presented with cognitive tasks using the software, EPrime, and then monitored as they respond to said stimuli. 

Monitoring involves recording the response times to each of the stimuli in addition to other characteristics.  During this process, fMRI data estimating neural activity is recorded allowing the study to simultaneously monitor both the behavioral (responses and response times) and neural (fMRI) data.

The data are analyzed afterwards to help ascertain what specific/measurable behavioral and neural differences are present in patients with known eating disorders from those without: Results will allow us to potentially design more effective prevention and treatment programs to address these underlying neural differences.

The lab is looking to explore additional uses for the data such as the application of Graph Theory on MRI data with the purpose of understanding models of functional neural networks in the context of eating disorders.

Technical Skills

We are looking for student with experience in or willingness to learn the following:

  • Has experience working with Unix (This is not a strict requirement but would be helpful)

  • Programming a method for parsing through log/text files for particular sources of data and using the results to create additional .txt files which can be used in other program applications

  • Exploring new methods of using graph theory to explore new applications of the MRI and fMRI data that has been and is being recorded