student profile: Miss Rachel Brownlow


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Thesis work

Thesis title: The Psychological and Behavioural Effects of Intranasal Oxytocin in Anorexia Nervosa

Supervisors: Maree ABBOTT , Paul RHODES , Sarah MAGUIRE , Stephen TOUYZ

Thesis abstract:

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a dangerous mental illness, and a major social and public health problem in Australia and globally, with the highest mortality and treatment costs of any psychiatric disorder. With an average duration of 7 years and full recovery rates of only 50%, many patients suffer chronically and pose a heavy burden on their families and the health system. Effective nutritional rehabilitation programs exist, but are costly and protracted, and patients struggle to engage and persevere. There is an urgent need for a safe, inexpensive, easily administered treatment to enhance the efficacy of nutritional rehabilitation programs and patients’ capacity to comply with these. The purpose of this study is to explore the effects of a novel pharmacotherapy, intra-nasal oxytocin (IN-OT), on patients with AN participating in an inpatient refeeding program. IN-OT has been shown to be a beneficial agent in treating some types of mental illnesses, such as autism, by increasing prosocial behaviour and reducing anxiety. Evidence suggests that anorexia shares some features of autism, such as repetitive and rigid behaviours, high anxiety, social deficits and often marked social withdrawal. Pilot studies conducted by the current study investigators suggest therapeutic potential for oxytocin nasal spray in further reducing Eating Concern, an integral part of the core psychopathology of AN. Reduction of fear and anxiety around food and eating should permit more effective weight restoration and better engagement in the psychological aspects of treatment with improved outcomes. We also anticipate that IN-OT may address the marked social deficits characteristic of AN, by increasing social bonds and interpersonal relationships, which may also improve outcomes.

Selected publications

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Journals

  • Kesby, A., Maguire, S., Brownlow, R., Grisham, J. (2017). Intolerance of Uncertainty in eating disorders: An update on the field. Clinical Psychology Review, 56, 94-105. [More Information]
  • Brownlow, R., Maguire, S., O'Dell, A., Dias-da-Costa, C., Touyz, S., Russell, J. (2015). Evaluation of an online training program in eating disorders for health professionals in Australia. Journal of Eating Disorders, 3, 1-6. [More Information]

2017

  • Kesby, A., Maguire, S., Brownlow, R., Grisham, J. (2017). Intolerance of Uncertainty in eating disorders: An update on the field. Clinical Psychology Review, 56, 94-105. [More Information]

2015

  • Brownlow, R., Maguire, S., O'Dell, A., Dias-da-Costa, C., Touyz, S., Russell, J. (2015). Evaluation of an online training program in eating disorders for health professionals in Australia. Journal of Eating Disorders, 3, 1-6. [More Information]

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