Neuroimaging in eating disorders.


Neuroanatomical and functional studies in the eating disorders (ED) are reviewed. Typically, anorexia nervosa (AN) is associated with cerebral spinal fluid spaces enlargement which generally recover as a function of re-feeding. However, specific cortical areas fail to correct in weight restored anorectic patients suggesting trait-related abnormalities. Functional changes in AN associated with starvation reverse with weight recovery, however, reduced 5-HT2A receptor binding may be fundamental to the pathophysiology of AN since this remains after long term weight restoration. Structural studies of bulimia nervosa (BN) provide evidence of brain atrophy, in the absence of significant weight loss but potentially related to chronic dietary restriction. Functional investigations reveal reduced thalamic and hypothalamic serotonin transporter availability in BN which increases with longer illness duration. Thus, BN is associated with substantial structural and functional alterations despite normal weight. Recent advances in neuroimaging techniques and their interpretation are increasing our understanding of normal processes in the control of food intake including neuroanatomical correlates of hunger and satiety. Taken together with the structural and functional changes observed in the ED, neuroimaging provides a powerful platform to identify the underlying trait-related pathophysiological mechanisms in the aetiology and maintenance of AN and BN.