Anorexics’ brains are structurally and functionally altered

Published on January 25, 2013 at 12:43 AM · No Comments

RUB researchers find altered connectivity in the brain network for body perception

The weaker the connection, the greater the misjudgement of body shape

When people see pictures of bodies, a whole range of brain regions are active. This network is altered in women with anorexia nervosa. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging study, two regions that are important for the processing of body images were functionally more weakly connected in anorexic women than in healthy women. The stronger this "connection error" was, the more overweight the respondents considered themselves. "These alterations in the brain could explain why women with anorexia perceive themselves as fatter, even though they are objectively underweight" says Prof. Dr. Boris Suchan of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Ruhr-Universität. Together with Prof. Dr. Dietrich Grönemeyer (University of Witten-Herdecke), Prof. Dr. Silja Vocks (University of Osnabrück) and other colleagues, the Bochum researchers report in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.

Anorexics misperceive their body shape

The researchers tested ten anorexic and fifteen healthy women of similar age. To start with, all the women judged on the computer which of several different silhouettes corresponded best to their own body shape. Ten control subjects who did not participate in the MRI scan answered the same question by matching a photo of the test subject to the right silhouette. Both healthy and anorexic women estimated their body shape differently than outsiders: healthy subjects rated themselves as thinner than the control subjects. Anorexic women on the other hand perceived themselves to be fatter than the control subjects did.

Brain areas for body perception examined with MRI

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