Anorexia, an eating disorder, might be caused by a genetic brain disorder which shares its traits with autism and Asperger's syndrome, a new study has found.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Prof Janet Treasure at King's College London.
As part of the study researchers tried to figure out the neural networks in the brain to find how patterns of information are processed and how this affects behaviour, to look at the aspects of brain functions that increase the risk of someone falling prey to an eating disorder.
Researchers found the anorexia patients shared traits with people who suffered from autism.
Autism is a disorder that is usually first diagnosed in early childhood. The main signs and symptoms of autism involve communication, social interactions and repetitive behaviours.
The study noted that people with eating disorders had difficulty in changing self-set rules and learnt behaviour once fixed in the brain. They also saw the world in close-up detail, as if they were looking at life through a zoom lens, but this could be at the cost of having an ability to see and think about self-identity and connections with others without getting lost in the details.
This distorted pattern of processing information has a strong similarity to autistic spectrums. It has even been described as the female form of Asperger's, a milder version of the disorder. Traits that may appear in childhood, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or overperfectionism, can often indicate a vulnerability to developing an eating disorder later in adolescence.
"Examining other family members is very important, especially when there is another young woman in the family. The children of women who themselves have had an eating disorder are particularly interesting, as comparing patterns of the illness across generations can enhance our understanding of environmental as well as genetic factors and how they interact," the Telegraph quoted Prof Treasure, as saying.