CUMC logoAnorexia Nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder faced due to obsessive fear of gaining extra weight. If an individual may be underweight and continue starving, this may affect physiological systems throughout the body, including the brain tremendously. Though unclear, it has been observed that the volume of the brain reduces in this disease. Now according to the study undertaken by the Columbia University Center for Eating Disorders, improved treatment can possibly help regain the grey matter volume of the brain.

With the help of MRI the investigators scanned the brains of 32 adult female AN patients and 21 healthy women. The AN patients were already present in a controlled room and the healthy women displayed no psychiatric bad health.

Christina Roberto, MS, MPhil from Yale University team leader shared, “Anorexia Nervosa wreaks havoc on many different parts of the body, including the brain. In our study we measured brain volume deficits among underweight patients with the illness to evaluate if the decline is reversible thought short-term weight restoration.”

It was made known by these scans that there is less grey matter brain volume in AN patients than the healthy women. It also seemed to affirm that patients, who were underweight and faced the illness for the longest time, suffered the greatest reductions in brain volume.

Roberto commented, “The good news is that when women with Anorexia Nervosa received treatment at a specialized eating disorders inpatient unit at Columbia University which helped them gain to a normal weight, the deficits in brain volume began to reverse over the course of only several weeks of weight gain. This suggests that the reductions in brain matter volume that results from starvation can be reversed with appropriate treatment aimed at weight restoration.”

Although the investigators claim that underweight adult patients with AN have reduced brain volumes that increase with short-term weight restoration, there are many facts that are still unknown to them. They are unable to determine how brain volume deficits impact functioning, the specific regions of the brain that are most affected or if these deficits are linked to then how do the patients respond to treatment.

The study was published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.