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Neuroimaging and eating disorders

Frank, Guido K.W.

doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000544
EATING DISORDERS: Edited by Hans W. Hoek and Anna Keski-Rahkonen

Purpose of review Eating disorders are severe psychiatric disorders with a suspected complex biopsychosocial cause. The purpose of this review is to synthesize the recent literature on brain imaging in eating disorders.

Recent findings Food restriction as well as binge eating and purging behaviors are associated with lower regional brain volumes or cortical thickness, but those changes largely return to normal with normalization of weight and eating behavior. Computational modeling has started to identify patterns of structural and functional imaging data that classify eating disorder subtypes, which could be used in the future, diagnostically and to better understand disorder-specific psychopathology. The prediction error model, a computational approach to assess dopamine-related brain reward function, helped support a brain-based model for anorexia nervosa. In that model, the conscious motivation to restrict conflicts with body signals that stimulate eating. This conflict causes anxiety and drives a vicious cycle of food restriction.

Summary Novel brain research supports the notion that eating disorders have distinct neurobiological underpinnings. This new knowledge can be used to describe disease models to patients and develop novel treatments.

Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research, University of California San Diego, San Diego, California, USA

Correspondence to Guido K.W. Frank, MD, Professor in Psychiatry, UCSD Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research, 4510 Executive Dr #315, San Diego, CA 92121, USA. E-mail:

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