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Anorexia Nervosa Brain Science
Scientists are studying the complex brain changes caused by anorexia nervosa. Neuroimaging shows subtle but measurable differences in the brains of people with anorexia nervosa compared with those who have never suffered from the disorder.
The brains of people with anorexia nervosa show a different reward response, react differently to feedback, and have altered serotonin — a key neurotransmitter — pathways.
Differences are found not just in people who are currently suffering from anorexia nervosa, but also in those who have recovered from the disorder. No one knows whether neurobiological differences occur before someone has anorexia nervosa and are physical predictors of the illness — or if these neurobiological differences are “scars” from prolonged starvation.
Individuals with anorexia nervosa have difficulty experiencing pleasure. Compared to people who don’t have anorexia nervosa, the brains of people with anorexia nervosa — or those who have recovered — don’t respond normally to food. The findings suggest that brain circuitry is altered in regions that control taste pleasantness and reward mechanisms.
MRI studies have shown that both active and recovering individuals with anorexia nervosa show enlargement of a particular area of the brain. Research showed increased gray matter in a brain region called the orbitofrontal cortex, which tells the body when to stop eating. Even when someone recovers from the disorder, changes in the brain remain.
Angela Guarda, MD
Angela Guarda, MD is the Stephen and Jean Robinson Associate Professor of Eating Disorders in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at…Read More…
It is impossible to recover from Anorexia unless you reach a minimal normal weight.
– Angela Guarda, MD
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