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UCLA study shows that people with anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder have similar brain abnormalities



Well-known member
Mar 23, 2009
UCLA study shows that people with anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder have similar brain abnormalities

People with anorexia nervosa and with body dysmorphic disorder have similar abnormalities in their brains that affect their ability to process visual information, a new UCLA study reveals.

People with anorexia have such an intense fear of gaining weight that they starve themselves even when they are dangerously thin. Body dysmorphic disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by an obsessive preoccupation with a perceived flaw in physical appearance.

The researchers found that people with both disorders had abnormal activity in the visual cortex of the brain during the very first instants when the brain processes “global” information, or images as a whole, as opposed to a tiny detail. According to the authors, it could also mean that perceptual retraining may be an effective therapy for both disorders. Perceptual retraining is a behavioral exercise that attempts to help adjust or correct the participant’s balance of global and detailed processing. For both of these disorders, participants are encouraged to not focus on details and process objects more globally.

Previous research on body dysmorphic disorder has shown the same type of abnormal activity in the visual cortex, but the UCLA study was the first to link the locations of the abnormal brain activity with time periods beginning as early as one-tenth of a second after an image is viewed. Understanding that timing is significant, the authors write, because it may help scientists determine whether the problem is in lower-level perception that takes place in the visual cortex, or elsewhere in higher-level brain systems.

The study appears in the current online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Psychological Medicine.

The UCLA researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to detect regional abnormalities in visual processing and electroencephalography, or EEG, to assess the timeline for how the brain processes those signals. They compared results for 15 people with anorexia nervosa, 15 people with body dysmorphic disorder and 15 healthy individuals.

“We now know that these abnormalities may be happening at the very early stages when the brain begins processing visual input, and that the similar distortions in perception shared by anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder may have similar neurobiological origins,” said Wei Li, a student in the UCLA Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program for Neuroscience and the study’s first author. “This understanding has the potential to lead to new strategies that can improve the way we treat these disorders.”

UCLA study shows that people with anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder have similar brain abnormalities | UCLA
Toasted Crumpet

Toasted Crumpet

Feb 11, 2013
under the Forum Troll bridge
Hmm. Could the visual cortex alter in response to bullying then, eg being told you are ugly consistently from a young age. Or is believing you are ugly different from BDD in the same way that disliking one's body is different from anorexia?

Sorry if I am not clever enough to understand the original article. It is not for nothing I am too thick to fit in the toaster.