New research from RUB researchers has found a possible physiological explanation for anorexia.
Using an MRI, the researchers found that certain portions of an anorexics brain network have weakened connections. The scientists noted that the weaker the connection, the more likely someone was to misjudge their body.
"These alterations in the brain could explain why women with anorexia perceive themselves as fatter, even though they are objectively underweight" says Prof. Dr. Boris Suchan of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Ruhr-Universität. Together with Prof. Dr. Dietrich Grönemeyer (University of Witten-Herdecke), Prof. Dr. Silja Vocks (University of Osnabrück) and other colleagues, the Bochum researchers report in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.
In the tests, anorexics were compared with healthy women of a similar age. Each woman was shown a series of silouets and told to choose the one that looked most like them. There was also a third group that was not part of the study which made up the control. These women were also shown the same silhouets but they were told to match them up against the women taking part in the trial.
The results showed that anorexic women overestimated their body size while average women underestimated their size.
The study participants also did the same basic experiment inside an MRI scanner. The researchers found that when healthy women were judging body size, even using pictures of other women, there was a strong connection between the fusiform body area (FBA) and the extrastriate body area, (EBA). This connection became significantly weaker in the brains of anorexics.
"In a previous study we found that there are structural changes in the brains of patients with anorexia", says Boris Suchan. They have a lower density of nerve cells in the EBA. "The new data shows that the network for body processing is also functionally altered."
Not only could this new discovery lead to possible tests that could indicated someone’s likelihood of an eating disorder, it could be the basis of a lasting treatment for the disease.