Eating disorder (ED) is a mental disorder that includes Anorexia Nervosa (AN), Bulimia Nervosa (BN), Binge-eating disorder (BED), and Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.
Eating Disorder is often misunderstood as a personal choice to restrict food to look slim. However, brain scans such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging has shown that there are alterations in the brain of people with eating disorder.
These are the changes in the brain of a person with Eating Disorder
Neurochemical alteration has been shown in the brains of people with Eating Disorder. Neurochemicals which regulates brain activity such a as Serotonin and Dopamine show unusual correlations with different types of eating disorder.
Serotonin are chemicals in the brain that helps the brain cells to connect. Serotonin helps with functions such as mood, memory, learning, sleep, digestion, body temperature, sexual behavior and hunger.
Dopermine is the ‘feel good’ hormone that gives you a sense of pleasure, reward and motivation to do something. It also helps with movement, memory and focus.
Hormones that regulate and balances the body systems are also altered affecting the normal reward circuits associated with desire for food. Levels of cytokines causing inflammation is also increased in Aneroxia Nervosa.
There is an overall reduction in brain volume in Anorexia Nervosa. Brain Structures that are important for taste perception or valuation of reward is altered when food is restricted or in binge eating and purging. The reduction of White Matter in the brain, the connecting pathways to different parts of the brain, will in turn further affect regulation of food intake.
Brain network and connectivity involved in taste and reward circuits have shown to override hunger signals in Eating Disorder. These pathways look similar to the brain of a people with substance abuse.
Reduction of glucose has shown to alter perception of body shape and affecting the ability to make sense of self and others.
Eating disorder when left untreated can cause irreversible damage and in severe cases even death. However, given timely intervention, conditions are reversible.
Reference: Frank, G. K. W., Shott, M. E., & DeGuzman, M. C. (2019). The Neurobiology of Eating Disorders. Child and adolescent psychiatric clinics of North America, 28(4), 629–640. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2019.05.007 Von Hausswolff-Juhlin, Y., Brooks, S. J., & Larsson, M. (2015). The neurobiology of eating disorders--a clinical perspective. Acta psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131(4), 244–255. https://doi.org/10.1111/acps.12335
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