The Fight Against Eating Disorders Turns to Imaging

Posted on June 21st, 2013

Doctors are finding many uses for imaging techniques and that includes doctors focused on issues in the brain that lead to eating disorders.

Due to a limited understanding of eating disorders, health professionals aren’t always successful in treating patients with anorexia or bulimia. However, the advent of advanced brain imaging is resulting in a better understanding of how the brains of those affected with eating disorders function.

Researchers say that the imaging technology available today has allowed them to focus on understanding the cause of symptoms rather than guessing how to treat them.

One of the discoveries doctors have made using imaging is that people with eating disorders frequently experience varying levels of anxiety when eating or thinking about eating, whereas people without eating disorders derive pleasure from these same thoughts and actions.

The anxious feelings will distract the individual from eating, which leads to significant health issues associated with anorexia. It doesn’t always have to do with body image though; some patients simply derive a negative feeling from eating.

Food restriction is the most commonly associated cause of anorexia, and the imaging process has helped reveal why the restriction behavior occurs, specifically by looking for brain markers triggered by internal thinking.

Some anorexic individuals will go two-plus months without eating solid food, subsisting on juices. Individuals such as these have undergone imaging studies that reveal blood flow to the brain, and the blood flow suggests that they don’t process body imaging in the same areas of the brain that other people do.

Rehabilitation has proven that despite the broken pathways, individuals with severe eating disorders aren’t given a life sentence. Researchers say that just because a region of the brain isn’t working properly at one point in a person’s life doesn’t mean that it is forever broken.

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