The Neurobiology of Anorexia Nervosa

The research of our team is focused on the eating disorders anorexia nervosa (AN).

The memory of us in my original family celebrating when my older sister, several years after her weight recovery from anorexia nervosa (AN), finally felt hunger again has been my guiding star and motivator during my years in research on the neurobiology of AN. How come that individuals with AN stay in negative energy balance, severely emaciated and starved, commonly for years, despite that the human body and brain in order to ensure our survival, have developed intricate systems to prevent exactly this. At the same time others struggle to lose weight their whole life.

Based on our own and others previous results we propose that genetic vulnerability to anorexia nervosa (AN) combined with environmental triggers of dieting/food restriction, induce changes in arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (Arc) neurons, and their communication with surrounding microglia, resulting in a paradoxical response to negative energy balance. 

We utilise clinical samples, as well as preclinical- and stem cell based models, and medical registries, in order to define the neuronal circuitries and molecular mechanisms involved in the negative energy balance of AN. We believe that we by defining these mechanisms can contribute to the development of pharmaceuticals supporting renourishment and weight gain in the very critical initial phase of treatment of individuals with AN.

We collaborate with Centre for Eating Disorders Innovation (CEDI) at MEB, KI.

Team-leader: Ida Nilsson

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Ida Nilsson

Senior Research Specialist

Co-workers in the Translational Psychiatry Group:

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Vincent Millischer

Affiliated to Research
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Jingjing Xu

Phd Student


Selected publications

Exposures during pregnancy and at birth are associated with the risk of offspring eating disorders.
Ozsvar J, Gissler M, Lavebratt C, Nilsson IAK
Int J Eat Disord 2023 Aug;():

Plasma Concentrations of Short-Chain Fatty Acids in Active and Recovered Anorexia Nervosa.
Xu J, Landberg R, Lavebratt C, Bulik CM, Landén M, Nilsson IAK
Nutrients 2022 Dec;14(24):

Exploring the Mechanisms of Recovery in Anorexia Nervosa through a Translational Approach: From Original Ecological Measurements in Human to Brain Tissue Analyses in Mice.
Duriez P, Nilsson IAK, Le Thuc O, Alexandre D, Chartrel N, Rovere C, Chauveau C, Gorwood P, Tolle V, Viltart O
Nutrients 2021 Aug;13(8):

Serum profiling of anorexia nervosa: A 1H NMR-based metabolomics study.
Salehi M A, Nilsson IA, Figueira J, Thornton LM, Abdulkarim I, Pålsson E, Bulik CM, Landén M
Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 2021 Aug;49():1-10

Aberrant inflammatory profile in acute but not recovered anorexia nervosa.
Nilsson IAK, Millischer V, Göteson A, Hübel C, Thornton LM, Bulik CM, Schalling M, Landén M
Brain Behav Immun 2020 Aug;88():718-724

Epigenetic regulation of the cannabinoid receptor CB1 in an activity-based rat model of anorexia nervosa.
D'Addario C, Zaplatic E, Giunti E, Pucci M, Micioni Di Bonaventura MV, Scherma M, Dainese E, Maccarrone M, Nilsson IA, Cifani C, Fadda P
Int J Eat Disord 2020 May;53(5):432-446

Associations of Different Types of Maternal Diabetes and Body Mass Index With Offspring Psychiatric Disorders.
Kong L, Nilsson IAK, Brismar K, Gissler M, Lavebratt C
JAMA Netw Open 2020 Feb;3(2):e1920787

Hypothalamic Structural and Functional Imbalances in Anorexia Nervosa.
Florent V, Baroncini M, Jissendi-Tchofo P, Lopes R, Vanhoutte M, Rasika S, Pruvo JP, Vignau J, Verdun S, Johansen JE, Pigeyre M, Bouret SG, Nilsson IAK, Prevot V
Neuroendocrinology 2020 ;110(6):552-562

Plasma neurofilament light chain concentration is increased in anorexia nervosa.
Nilsson IAK, Millischer V, Karrenbauer VD, Juréus A, Salehi AM, Norring C, von Hausswolff-Juhlin Y, Schalling M, Blennow K, Bulik CM, Zetterberg H, Landén M
Transl Psychiatry 2019 Aug;9(1):180

The anx/anx Mouse - A Valuable Resource in Anorexia Nervosa Research.
Nilsson IAK
Front Neurosci 2019 ;13():59

Associations of Maternal Diabetes and Body Mass Index With Offspring Birth Weight and Prematurity.
Kong L, Nilsson IAK, Gissler M, Lavebratt C
JAMA Pediatr 2019 Apr;173(4):371-378

Content reviewer:
Lilian Pagrot