Anorexia: Rooted In The Brain, Not In The Gut

Lots of news today on the understanding anorexia front. First, a new study of recovered anorexics and "healthy" women shows that anorexia permanently alters the way that the brain perceives pleasure. In anorexics, there is little difference in the way that the brain registers pleasure and registers loss, giving scientists more insight into how and why anorexics are able to deny themselves the pleasure of eating. (The study involved having both groups of women play a number guessing game where they won $2 for everything they guessed right and lost $1 for everything they guessed wrong. The "healthy" women? Really happy when they got it right, really upset when they got it wrong. The former anorexics? Indifferent.) Meanwhile, a second study that also focuses on brain function seeks to further demystify Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a condition which anorexics (and many non-anorexics) suffer from.

This new data shows that people with BDD have "normal" functioning brains — proving that it is not, in fact, a neurological disorder — but suffer from a "visual glitch" which physiologically prevents them from accurately seeing their own bodies in a mirror. Through MRI testing it has been shown that in individuals with BDD, people use the left (analytical) side of their brain over the right (intuitive) side in evaluating images of faces of any kind, their own or otherwise, making them predisposed to be overly-critical about appearance, even to the point of imagining physical flaws that do not actually exist. Ugh. Does anyone hae some chocolate?

Brain Patterns Of Former Anorexics Reveal Clues To Disorder's Lasting Impact [Science Daily]
Distorted Self-image Due To Visual Brain Glitch, UCLA Research Finds [Eureka Alert]