Dr Bryan Lask: A Memorial

Bryan Lask my colleague and innovative anorexia expert died on October 24th 2015. This is my commemoration to him.

Bryan and I taught together on our childhood eating disorders and obesity course. While he spoke about eating difficulties and anorexia, I would cover the obesity side.  Bryan was at the time involved with working out the neuroscience abnormalities associated with anorexia nervosa. He was very excited to be involved with this research with colleagues in Oslo.

While I was also excited about new thinking for anorexia, it seemed that the old treatments still applied. We still have  no option other than to help break open the thinking and rigid behaviour and discover ways to encourage people to begin taking care of themselves again with food. There was still no pill to correct the anorexia ill.

Until the mid-1990s, it was assumed that the causes of anorexia lay in the personalities and upbringing of sufferers. Inevitably parents felt guilty. What Lask and his colleagues discovered were abnormalities in the way that blood flowed through the brains of people with anorexia. I asked Bryan if this was the cause or effect of starvation. He did not know but his latest researches with Ken Nunn seemed to suggest that abnormalities pre-dated the illness.

Their research coincided with a general move at that time to explore psychiatry through the lens of neuroscience. Bryan, an expert communicator would describe the area of the brain most affected by poor circulation as the Clapham Junction of the brain, connecting many areas which affect how we process information and act on it. When he appeared on a Radio 4 programme  to talk about this, the response was so positive that they considered setting a Bryan Lask fan club!

Bryan was so excited by the neuro. findings on anorexia that he set up a research programme at the University of Oslo and this was on going until his life ended. I had no idea that he was unwell because his energy and enthusiasm was boundless.  I am grateful that he had experienced the joy of having a grandson Raffi who was born during one of our training events.  I am particularly grateful that he was one of the people who inspired my work with anorexia and with the problems of overweight children. The first thing he told me 30 years ago, don’t put fat children on a diet. This has informed my life in many ways.

Thank you Bryan and,  rest in peace.