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

elements of visual processing. One altered set of images included very fine details, such as the shingles on the roof. The other altered images had very little detail and just showed things "holistically," such as the general shape of the house and the doors and windows.

The researchers found that the BDD patients had abnormal brain activation patterns when viewing pictures of the less-detailed houses: The regions of their brains that process these visual elements showed less activation than the healthy controls. In addition, the more severe their BDD symptoms, the lower the brain activity in the areas responsible for processing the image holistically.

"The study suggests that BDD patients have general abnormalities in visual processing," Feusner said. "But we haven't yet determined whether abnormal visual processing contributes as a cause to developing BDD or is the effect of having BDD. So it's the chicken-or-the-egg phenomenon.

"Many psychological researchers have long believed that people with body-image problems such as eating disorders only have distorted thoughts about their appearance, rather than having problems in the visual cortex, which precedes conscious thought. This study, along with our previous ones, shows that people with BDD have imbalances in the way they see details versus the big picture when viewing themselves, others and even inanimate objects."

Thirty percent of people with BDD also suffer from eating disorders, which are also linked to having a distorted self-image. Feusner is now enrolling anorexia nervosa patients to study whether they have abnormalities in the way they process visual information, to compare them with BDD patients. He plans to use this information to develop treatments to help people reconfigure the way they perceive themselves.


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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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