This study will combine advanced brain imaging technology with other assessments to examine how hormonal, cognitive, and psychological factors are interrelated in PWS. Results from this study will increase the understanding of how brain regions involved in food intake are related to appetite hormones, hair cortisol, and neuropsychological performance in PWS, and provide a foundation for the development of effective therapies to manage feeding behavior and chronic stress. Funding provided by FPWR – Canada.
Theresa Strong, Director of Research Programs, shares details on this project in this short video clip.
Watch the full webinar describing the 11 research projects funded in this grant cycle here.
Individuals with Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) have increased hunger and food seeking behavior, as well as learning (cognitive) challenges. In addition, some patients with PWS have been shown to have low cortisol production, particularly in stressful situations. However, research examining how hormonal, cognitive, and psychological factors are interrelated in PWS is limited. To address this gap in knowledge, the goal of this project is to advance our understanding of how changes in brain regions involved in controlling food intake and cognitive processes are related to changes in hormones regulating appetite, the stress hormone cortisol, and performance on neuropsychological tests. Our participants are adolescents with PWS and adolescents matched for sex, age, and BMI. We will use a brain scanning technique to examine the relationships between separate areas of the brain when at “rest”, and in response to cognitive tasks and images of high calorie, low-calorie, and non-food images (“food cue reactivity”). We will then determine how these relationships are associated with scores on the neuropsychological tests, food intake hormones, and hair cortisol. We predict that areas of the brain related to cognitive processes are reduced, while areas of the brain involved in food intake are activated in response to the food images. We predict that these changes in these brain areas are related to an ineffective appetite hormone and cortisol regulation and problems with mental control and self-regulation. Results from this study will increase our understanding of how brain regions involved in food intake are related to appetite hormones, hair cortisol, and neuropsychological performance in PWS. Our research will provide a foundation for the development of effective treatment therapies to manage feeding behavior and chronic stress in this population. Specifically, examining novel factors, such as hair cortisol, and its association with brain function and hormones that control appetite, might help direct treatment. Ultimately, our goal is to identify dietary and cognitive strategies to manage the complexity of this disorder.
Jill Hamilton, MD
Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto
Jill Hamilton, MD