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Burkert, N.
Psychological and Neurobiological Aspects of Eating Disorders - Brain Activity in Response to Different Taste Stimuli in Patients suffering from Anorexia Nervosa compared to Healthy Controls
Doktoratsstudium der Medizinischen Wissenschaft; Humanmedizin; [ Dissertation ] Graz Medical University; 2015. pp. [OPEN ACCESS]


Authors Med Uni Graz:
Burkert Nathalie
Freidl Wolfgang
Greimel Elfriede Renate
Stix Peter

Eating disorders (EDs) are among the most widely spread and most severe mental diseases in Western countries. Individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa (AN) show an incredible loss of weight due to a restriction of food intake. Previous studies have evidenced a reduced volume in special cortical regions in individuals suffering from an ED. Additionally, functional alterations can be found in cortical regions in patients suffering from AN, which are implicated in the regulation of feeding behavior. So far, most studies concerning patients suffering from AN analyzed brain activity in response to a sweet taste. Therefore, the aim of this study was to analyze psychological factors which are associated with the disease, structural brain changes, possible alterations in brain activity in response to different tastes, as well as associations between the various factors. Twenty-one females who were currently suffering from AN, and 21 healthy age-matched control women (CW) were tested. Psychological aspects were measured with a questionnaire. Information regarding cortical volume was collected, together with imaging data from a 3 Tesla magnetic resonance scanner (MRI), while three different taste stimuli (sweet, sour, and umami) and a neutral solution were presented to the participants. Data concerning psychological aspects of the disease and regarding brain volumes were analyzed using (multivariate) analyses of variance (MANOVA). Correlations were calculated between the hippocampal volume and the volume of the amygdale with psychological aspects. Group differences due to the administration of a taste were analyzed using linear t-contrasts with the statistical software SPM. Additionally, differences in brain activity concerning the administration of the three different tastes in the significant regions were calculated by means of MANOVA and associations between the brain activity and psychological data were analyzed. The results of this study evidenced that patients with AN show specific personality characteristics. Many patients with AN suffer from the associated co-morbid disorders. Individuals with AN rated their subjective health worse and had a lower quality of life than the healthy controls. Additionally, the results of this study evidenced a deficiency in coping strategies as well as body image distortions in AN. Patients with AN showed a selective volume loss in special brain areas. The size of the hippocampus and amygdale was associated with psychological factors such as stress, and body image distortion. Moreover, the results of this study evidenced altered taste processing in brain areas such as the insula, and the anterior cingulated cortex. In addition to this, the results showed that taste processing is associated with psychological factors in AN. Up until now, hardly any information regarding physiological correlates of behavioral disorders was available because of the inaccessibility of the brain. Imaging methods can provide new insights into the structural and functional changes of the brain which – in addition to psychological, social and environmental interactions – might contribute to the development and/or maintenance of AN. Overall, the results of this study help to better understand the pathophysiology of the disease which can help to find a reasoned approach to its treatment.

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