Major studies have shown that anorexia nervosa causes the brain to contract more than any other mental health condition, including depression.
Neuroscientists at the University of Bath said the findings were a “call for awakening” to intervene faster in dietary conditions and prevent further damage.
Researchers examined brain scans of 2,000 people with anorexia nervosa and found that their brain volume was reduced by 1-5%.
Scans showed a “significant reduction” in cortical thickness, subcortical volume, and cortical surface area. This was two to four times greater than in people with conditions such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Researchers believe that changes in brain size may be due to a decrease in body mass index rather than state-driven nerve contractions.
Road to recovery
However, those on the road to recovery from loss of appetite showed 30 to 50 percent less contraction. And it suggests that the brain can repair itself, studies have shown.
Dr. Esther Walton, Principal Researcher, Faculty of Psychology, University of Bath, said:
“This is a good sign as it indicates that these changes may not be permanent. With proper treatment, the brain may be able to bounce.”
Loss of appetite – severe eating disorders and mental health – More than 250,000 people over the age of 16 are affected in the UK.
Symptoms are characterized by people who try to keep their weight as low as possible by not eating enough.
For a new study, Bath scientists collaborated with 21 centers around the world to pool brain scans, including the missing Enigma Eating Disorders Working Group at the University of Southern California.
Paul Thompson, a professor of neurology and chief scientist at the Enigma Consortium, said:
“This is really a call for awakening and indicates the need for early intervention for people with eating disorders.
“We can now use these new brain function maps as references to assess the effectiveness of treatments and interventions.”
This study was published in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry.
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