Senan Coughlan-Hopkins

Research project: Social cognition in anorexia nervosa patients


My PhD research focuses on the cognitive neuropsychiatry of eating disorders. I'm particularly interested in understanding the social difficulties experienced by people with anorexia nervosa and peer group dynamics. It is known that social difficulties contribute to predisposing and maintaining factors of this illness. What is less clear is the underlying mechanisms of these difficulties. The aim of my research is to examine these mechanisms using contemporary behavioural methods and neurophysiological approaches.  


I completed my undergraduate degree, studying psychological sciences at Birkbeck University of London and went on to complete an MSc in Clinical Mental health Sciences at University College London. My previous BSc research was related to social neuroscience, theory of mind and social cognition in healthy adults.

Prior to beginning my PhD, I have worked as a support worker in a specialist psychiatric hospital for clients with eating disorders. I have also worked as an assistant psychologist in an adult ADHD service, before training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approaches, where I worked in primary care NHS settings treating common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Areas of research interest

  • Aetiological models of eating disorders
  • Cognitive neuropsychiatry and neuropsychology of eating disorders
  • Social Cognition, peer group relationships and mentalizing in eating disorders
  • Treatment of eating disorders


  • BSc Psychological Sciences Birkbeck University of London
  • MSc Clinical Mental Health Sciences UCL


Santiesteban, I., Catmur, C., Hopkins, S. C., Bird, G., & Heyes, C. (2014). Avatars and arrows: Implicit mentalizing or domain-general processing? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40(3), 929–937.