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People with body-image disorders process 'big picture' visual information abnormally
Date:5/26/2011

People suffering from body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD a severe mental illness characterized by debilitating misperceptions that one appears disfigured and ugly process visual information abnormally, even when looking at inanimate objects, according to a new UCLA study.

First author Dr. Jamie Feusner, a UCLA assistant professor of psychiatry, and colleagues found that patients with the disorder have less brain activity when processing holistic visual elements that provide the "big picture," regardless of whether that picture is a face or an object.

The research appears in the current online edition of the journal Psychological Medicine.

"No study until this one has investigated the brain's activity for visually processing objects in people with BDD," said Feusner, director of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Intensive Treatment Program at UCLA. "This is an important step to figuring out what's going wrong in the brains of people with BDD so we can develop treatments to change their perceptions of themselves."

People with BDD tend to fixate on minute details, such as a single blemish or a slight crook to the nose, rather than viewing their face as a whole. The impact of the disorder can be debilitating. Sufferers think obsessively about their appearance and engage in repetitive, time-consuming behaviors, such as checking their appearance in the mirror. Many are too embarrassed to leave the house, some have repeated and unnecessary plastic surgeries, and still others can become suicidal. BDD affects an estimated 2 percent of the population and is thought to be especially common in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The study compared 14 BDD patients, both men and women, with 14 healthy controls. Researchers used a type of brain scan called functional MRI (fMRI) to scan subjects while they viewed digital photographs of houses that were either unaltered or altered in ways to parse out different
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Contact: Mark Wheeler
mwheeler@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2265
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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