Emotional processing dysfunction evident in eating disorders (ED) such as anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN), is considered relevant to the development and maintenance of these disorders. The purpose of the current functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study was to pilot a comparison of the activity of the fronto-limbic and fronto-striatal brain areas during an emotion processing task in persons with ED.
24 women patients with ED were scanned, while showing emotionally stimulating (pleasant, unpleasant) and neutral images from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS).
During the pleasant condition, significant differences in Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC) activations were found with AN participants presenting greater activation compared to BN and ED comorbid groups (EDc) and healthy controls also showing greater activation of this brain area compared to BN and EDc. Left putamen was less activated in EDc compared to both controls (C) and AN. During the unpleasant condition, AN participants showed hyperactivation of the Orbito-frontal Cortex (OFC) when compared to EDc.
This study highlights the potential functional relevance of brain areas that have been associated with self-control. These findings should help advance understanding the neural substrate of ED, though they should be considered as preliminary and be cautiously interpreted.