Ida Nilsson

Assistant professor

Research description

Research area: Neurobiology of anorexia

The research of our team is focused on eating disorders, in particular Anorexia Nervosa. Eating disorders are serious psychiatric disorders characterized by persistent problems concerning food intake, often combined with preoccupation about body weight and shape. Currently effective pharmacological or other biological target-directed therapy are lacking, illustrated by among others the high chronicity (10-20%) and mortality of Anorexia Nervosa (10%). Approximately 1:100 young women and 1:1000 men are affected by Anorexia Nervosa some time throughout life. Almost twice as many are affected by Bulimia Nervosa. In addition, it has been estimated that 10-20% of all women display abnormal eating behavior and/or have a complicated relation to food, without being diagnosed with an eating disorder. Little is known about what causes the disorders, but it has been shown that those that are affected seem to have a hereditary sensitivity to external stimuli that can trigger the disease. In fact, 50-80% of the background of Anorexia Nervosa is attributed to genetic factors.

Food intake and self-starvation are central problems in Anorexia Nervosa. We simply do not understand how the bodies of individuals with AN are able to defend such low weights, often to the point of death.  A large proportion of our research is subsequently focused on the mechanisms in the brain controlling appetite and energy balance. These mechanisms are centered to the hypothalamus of the brain, often called the feeding center of the brain. The hypothalamus receives signals about energy status from the periphery, such as circulating leptin and insulin levels, and transforms this information to an appropriate response – to eat or not to eat.

The overall goal for our group is to understand the molecular mechanisms involved in hypothalamic regulation of food intake, in particular in relation to anorexia, this in order to offer new target molecules that may assist in the development of evidence based clinical practice and promote individualized therapy of eating disorders. 


Master of science in Nutrition, Stockholm University, 2004

PhD in Medical Science, Karolinska Instituet, 2010

Postdoctoral Training, Lab of Dir. Vincent Prévot, INSERM U837, Lille, FR

Academic honours, awards and prizes

NARSAD Young Investigator 2013-2014

Swedish Lundbeck Foundation Award 2011

Hjärnfonden PostDoc 2011-2012

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