Anorexia and related changes in brain function and behavior
Anorexia nervosa is a complex disease with a multitude of causes, including genetic predisposition, learned behavior, and environmental factors. While we have yet to fully understand the mechanisms that cause anorexia nervosa, we do know that it has a powerful effect on the brain.
In an article published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, researchers found that individuals diagnosed with anorexia nervosa had increased activation in their frontal cortex during tasks requiring decision-making and inhibition of automatic responses. This increased activation may be linked to the underlying cause of anorexia nervosa—a distorted body image and fear of being overweight.
The amygdala is another part of the brain that appears to be affected by anorexia nervosa. One study found that women with anorexia nervosa had increased activation in their amygdalas when they looked at pictures of food compared to healthy controls. The researchers hypothesized that this could be related to decreased appetite seen in those with anorexia nervosa, but more research is needed before this can be confirmed.