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

he game, brain regions lit up in different ways for women who formerly had anorexia compared to healthy controls. While the brain region for emotional responses showed strong differences for winning and losing in healthy women, women with a past history of anorexia showed little difference between winning and losing, said Angela Wagner, M.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the studys first author. For anorexics, then, perhaps is it difficult to appreciate immediate pleasure if it does not feel much different from a negative experience.

The caudate regions of the brains of formerly anorexic women, however, were more active than those of healthy controls, especially in the most anxious people, suggesting that women with a history of anorexia were more focused on the consequences of their choices, Dr. Kaye noted, adding that anorexics tend to worry about the future and doing things right.

There are some positive aspects to this kind of temperament, he said. Paying attention to detail and making sure things are done as correctly as possible are constructive traits in careers such as medicine or engineering. Carried to extremes, however, such obsessive thinking can also be harmful, Dr. Kaye added.

Results of the guessing game are instructive because they show that healthy women responded to wins and losses by living in the moment and moving on to the next task, while people with a past history of anorexia had trouble letting go. They tended to try and find strategies within the game, and were concerned about making mistakes, said Dr. Kaye.

There is no proven treatment that reverses symptoms in anorexia nervosa, which has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Increasing researchers understanding of these basic brain differences could influence future development of drugs and other treatments for anorexia, Dr. Kaye added. Were starting to understand these processes because we have better tools, such as
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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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