A study conducted earlier this year has discovered physical differences in the brains of anorexics compared to those without the disorder.
The brain is always active and incredibly fast moving in its processing. Whenever a person is receiving visual stimulus, the brain reacts and becomes increasingly active in several different regions. This new study has discovered that anorexics will have different levels of activity in specific areas of the brain. The technique used in the study to discover this new information is called functional magnetic resonance imaging and has allowed for a new and interesting look at the brains of those suffering from anorexia nervosa.
The difference is in how the brain is connected. The two main regions that are responsible for processing images of the body have been found to be significantly weaker in anorexics when compared to those without the disorder. It has been found that the weaker the connection is (the stronger the difference when compared to a normal brain) the more anorexic individuals consider themselves to be overweight. Dr Boris Suchan, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Ruhr-Universitat states that“These alterations in the brain could explain why women with anorexia perceive themselves as fatter, even though they are objectively underweight"
This is exciting news for those involved in research and treatment of anorexia; any solid, physical confirmation of differences in the brain is grounds for new areas and directions of research and could pave the way for new treatment for anorexia nervosa.
In the study, ten anorexic women were chosen, along with fifteen healthy women as a control group. After being tasked with choosing which visual representation of a body was most similar to their own by picking from a list of silhouettes, the women were then scanned through MRI machines. At the same time, the women were shown varying pictures of different types of bodies.
The critical element of this study is the “fusiform body area”, or FBA, and also the EBA, or “extrastriate body area”. The activity in these areas and their connections was the base of the studies findings on how different connection levels can be linked with anorexia.
As mentioned above, the link was weaker in the anorexic group. This confirmation of the level of FBA and EBA connection and its relation to anorexia is an extremely important discovery. While some studies are more speculative in nature, this research has found physical differences in the brain that can be tied to anorexia, guiding future research and prospects of treatment.
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