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 Kai Thomas

Kai Thomas

Research student, School of Psychology

1.15, Centre for Human Developmental Science, null, null, null, null, null


Research summary

Eating disorders typically develop during adolescence, with reports of a prominent increase in incidence from 11-12 years to 12-13 years (3.56 to 9.51/100,000 respectively; Nicholls, Lynn & Viner, 2011). Children around 12 years of age have been found to display eating disorder symptoms (also known as disordered eating behaviours), that are at similar levels to those found in late adolescence (Wichstrøm, 2000). In addition, the presence of disordered eating behaviours during childhood and early adolescence has been found to increase the risk of developing clinical eating disorders in late adolescence (Evans et al., 2017). The implication of this is that in order to develop our understanding of how clinical eating disorders develop during this time period and design interventions for treatment, research first needs to explore risk factors for disordered eating behaviours earlier in adolescence to identify risk factors and predictors.

My research focuses on examining aspects of cognition, behaviour and neural activity, and their relations to disordered eating behaviours in preadolescents. In order to do this we use a variety of methods, such as cognitive tasks, self-report and parent-report questionnaires, behavioural tasks, as well as electroencephalography (EEG).

Undergraduate Education

2013-17: BSc Psychology with Professional Placement (First Class Honours), Cardiff University.

Dissertation title: Investigating the roles of rejection sensitivity and adverse life events in disordered eating within a female undergraduate population.

Postgraduate Education

2017-18: MSc Social Science Research Methods (Distinction), Cardiff University (ESRC 1+3 Funding).

Dissertation title: Comparing neural markers of response monitoring in individuals high in disordered eating behaviours and obsessive-compulsive traits.


2021-2022: Lead Graduate Teaching Assistant, School of Psychology, Cardiff University.

2018-2021: Graduate Teaching Assistant, School of Psychology, Cardiff University.

2016-19: Research Assistant (part-time and full-time basis), Centre for Occupational and Health Psychology, Cardiff University.

2015-16: Psychology Placement Student, Ty Catrin, Low Secure Mental Illness and Personality Disorder Service, Cardiff.

2015: Cardiff University Research Opportunities Placement (CUROP) Internship, supervised by Prof. Andy Smith.


Research interests

Research interests

  • Developmental psychopathology

  • Child and adolescent mental health and wellbeing

  • Development and maintenance of eating disorders

  • Links between OCD and anorexia

  • Error related negativity (ERN)

Ongoing projects

I am currently recruiting and running lab testing sessions as part of my main PhD data collection, where we explore behaviour, cognition and brain activity at the Cardiff University Centre for Human Developmental Science (CUCHDS) in children aged between 10-11 years old.

Alongside these sessions we are conducting online questionnaire follow-ups with families who previously visited us at the centre last year to explore how some of the measures have changed across time.

Previous projects

My first PhD study focused on working with schools to recruit and run testing sessions with 213 children in year 5 and 6 of primary school. In these sessions children completed self-report questionnaires about their eating behaviours, as well as their general mental health and wellbeing. This study has since been published (open access) in Brain & Behavior:


I am a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA), delivering group seminars to undergraduate first year students. Additionally, I mark essays and provide feedback.


Understanding risk factors for disordered eating in children.

Supervised by Dr Ross Vanderwert, Dr Marc Williams, and Dr Catherine Jones.

The main aim of this research project is to identify and explore the factors that are associated with disordered eating behaviours in preadolescents. A range of techniques including EEG, cognitive tasks, self-report and parent-report questionnaires, and video coding of behaviour will be utilised to explore a variety of areas including cognitive control, emotional regulation, mental health and wellbeing, and neural activity.

We hope to examine how these factors relate to disordered eating behaviours as well as other mental health difficulties, such as anxiety and depression. Correlates of disordered eating behaviours in preadolescence may be involved in the development of eating disorders in adolescence; therefore, identification of correlates prior to the onset of an eating disorder may provide opportunity for early intervention and prevention. 

Funding source

ESRC 1+3 DTP Open Studentship and School of Psychology Graduate Teaching Assistant studentship



Dr Ross Vanderwert

Senior Lecturer


Dr Catherine Jones

Reader and Director of WARC

Marc W

Dr Marc Williams

Senior Academic Tutor / Honorary Senior Lecturer