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Difficulty treating anorexia may be deeply rooted in brain’s circuits

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A new study published in Nature Neuroscience used special “functional” MRI scans (f-MRI) to help determine why anorexia nervosa (AN) patients are so frightfully difficult to “cure” and and to embrace an effective treatment plan. Of all the mental disorders, AN is among the most — if not the most — prone to relapse and lethal outcomes, with over half of patients discharged in remission relapsing within one year.

The new study, done by researchers from New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University Medical Center, and the NYU Dept. of Psychology and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, led by Drs. Joanna Steinglass and B. Timothy Walsh, studied 21 women with AN and compared their results using f-MRI with an equal number of healthy women while they made decisions about what foods to eat.

The anorexic women were more likely than the healthy women to choose low-fat, low-calorie foods, and they were less apt to perceive the high-fat, high-calorie foods as stimulating their food cravings.

Both AN patients and the controls showed activation in an area known as the ventral striatum, part of the brain’s reward center. But the AN women showed more activity in the dorsal striatum, an area involved with habitual behavior. This suggested to the authors that the AN patients were acting automatically based on past learning, rather than weighing the pluses and minuses of the particular foods in front of them.

Read full, original post: Brain Circuitry of Anorexics Is Obstacle to Recovery

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