The Main Stream

Jun 10, 2010 12:11 PM

Brain image reveals eating disorders


TUCSON - Researchers at Brigham Young University conducted a study to help people who have eating disorders. New research suggests that even though women may claim to be comfortable with the way their bodies look, their brains disagree.

Studies show 95 percent of those who struggle with anorexia and bulimia are women.

Dr. Mark Allen, a neuroscientist, described one of the images, "These parts of the brain are involved in vision, seeing and this part is involved in some decision-making."

After gathering MRI images from those patients, they brought in others, women and men who said they had no body image problems.

What the researchers saw in their brains was surprising.

Dr. Diane Spangler, an associate professor of Psychology at BYU said, "When we scanned the women, they actually showed that they were very concerned about being overweight or seeing overweight images where the men were not at all."

The women who did not suffer from eating disorders showed anxiety about weight which showed up in their MRI images. "It suggests that there's a disconnection between a conscious evaluation of your body image and really what's going on deep down inside psychologically and, now we can see, neurologically," Dr. Allen explained.

The professors' research published in "Personality and Individual Differences", a psychology journal, shows how close many other women are to those with eating disorders. "There is so much bombardment of this 'thin ideal' and what your weight should be that it's now showing up in the brains of women, even with women who don't feel like this is a concern for them," Dr. Spangler said.

The professors say the good news is that through therapy, brain structures can change and people can heal.

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