Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa – disorders characterized by extreme eating behavior and distorted body image and a landmark study at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, suggests that the altered function in the brains of some people contributes to restricted eating in anorexia, overeating in bulimia as well as distorts self-image. The research, published June 2013 in American Journal of Psychiatry, may offer a pathway to new and more effective treatments for these serious eating disorders.
The study confirms that there is a clear link between eating disorders and neural processes in an area of the brain called the insula, which is where taste is sensed and then determines whether an individual feels hungry or full. “One possibility is that restricted eating and weight loss occurs in anorexia because the brain fails to accurately recognize hunger signals,” said study author Oberndorfer. “Alternately, overeating in bulimia could represent an exaggerated perception of hunger signals.”
The researchers added that such studies could have very important implications for treatment in the future. It may be possible to change disordered eating and body image by enhancing insula activity in individuals with anorexia or dampening the exaggerated or unstable response to food in those with bulimia.