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Brain patterns of former anorexics reveal clues to disorder's lasting impact
Date:11/30/2007

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 1 Even after more than a year of maintaining a normalized body weight, young women who recovered from anorexia nervosa show vastly different patterns of brain activity compared to similar women without the eating disorder, Walter H. Kaye, M.D., professor of psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and colleagues report in the December issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Studying these differences in brain function could lead to a better understanding of why some young women, who are typically worriers and perfectionists in childhood, are at greater risk of developing the disorder. Evidence also shows that such patterns of temperament persist even after recovery.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain is providing new clues to why people with anorexia nervosa are able to deny themselves food and other immediately rewarding pleasures, said Dr. Kaye, who is director of the eating disorders research program at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and has a joint appointment as professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. In addition, we have a new understanding of why people with anorexia seem to worry so much.

Dr. Kaye and his colleagues studied 13 women who had recovered from anorexia, maintaining a normal weight and regular menstrual cycles for at least one year, and 13 healthy women in a control group. Each was asked to guess whether a flashing question mark on a computer screen represented a number higher or lower than five. Correct guessers were rewarded with $2, while incorrect guessers forfeited $1. Brain activity in the anterior ventral striatum and caudate regions were monitored during game play with fMRI brain imaging. The anterior ventral striatum is associated with instant emotional responses, while the caudate is involved in linking actions to outcome and planning.

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Contact: Michele D. Baum
BaumMD@upmc.edu
412-647-3555
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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