Body image disturbance in anorexia nervosa (AN) has been widely studied with regard to the patient's own body, but little is known about perception of or attitude towards other women's bodies in AN. The aim of the present study was to investigate how 20 girls aged 12-18 years and 19 adult women suffering from AN compared to 37 healthy adolescent girls and women estimate weight and attractiveness of women's bodies belonging to different BMI categories (BMI 13.8-61.3 kg/m²). Weight and attractiveness ratings of the participant's own body and information on physical comparisons were obtained, and effects on others' weight and attractiveness ratings investigated. Differential evaluation processes were found: AN patients estimated other women's weight higher than control participants. Patients showed a bias towards assessing extremely underweight women as more attractive and normal weight and overweight women as less attractive than healthy girls and women. These effects were more pronounced in adult than in adolescent AN patients. The tendency to engage in physical comparison with others significantly correlated with weight as well as attractiveness ratings in patients. A logistic regression model encompassing own attractiveness ratings, attractiveness bias towards strongly underweight others' bodies and the interaction of this bias with age as predictors differentiated best between AN patients and controls. Our results indicate that females suffering from AN and healthy girls and women perceive other women's bodies differently. Assessment of others' weight and attractiveness may contribute to the maintenance of dysfunctional physical comparison processes.
BackgroundA constant preoccupation with food and restrictive eating are main symptoms of anorexia nervosa (AN). Imaging studies revealed aberrant neural activation patterns in brain regions processing hedonic and reward reactions as well as–potentially aversive–emotions. An imbalance between so called “bottom-up” and “top-down” control areas is discussed. The present study is focusing on neural processing of disease-specific food stimuli and emotional stimuli and its developmental course in adolescent and adult AN patients and could offer new insight into differential mechanisms underlying shorter or more chronic disease.Methods33 adolescents aged 12–18 years (15 AN patients, 18 control participants) and 32 adult women (16 AN patients, 16 control participants) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI, 3T high-field scanner) while watching pictures of high and low-calorie food and affective stimuli. Afterwards, they rated subjective valence of each picture. FMRI data analysis was performed using a region of interest based approach.ResultsPictures of high-calorie food items were rated more negatively by AN patients.Differences in activation between patients and controls were found in “bottom up” and “top down” control areas for food stimuli and in several emotion processing regions for affective stimuli which were more pronounced in adolescents than in adults.ConclusionA differential pattern was seen for food stimuli compared to generally emotion eliciting stimuli. Adolescents with AN show reduced processing of affective stimuli and enhanced activation of regions involved in “bottom up” reward processing and “top down” control as well as the insula with regard to food stimuli with a focus on brain regions which underlie changes during adolescent development. In adults less clear and less specific activation differences were present, pointing towards a high impact that regions undergoing maturation might have on AN symptoms.
Our results are the first to show that bupropion can increase neural responses during the anticipation, effort and consummation of rewarding and aversive stimuli. This supports the notion that bupropion might be beneficial for depressed patients with reward-related deficits and blunted affect.
Adolescent and adult patients show increased sustained attention toward extremely underweight bodies. In chronically ill patients, this bias appears to be accompanied by generally reduced automatic attention. The LPP findings provide a differentiated picture of aberrant cue reactivity which could be interpreted as motivated attention toward body shapes in AN.
A differential LPP pattern for girls with AN and TD girls when viewing pictures of women's bodies of different weight categories was obtained. Highest amplitudes in AN patients for pictures of underweight women may reflect motivational significance of strongly underweight body shapes.
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