People suffering from anorexia nervosa have the similar brain activities that are associated anxiety and other emotional disorders. The study was published in the September issue of Archives of General Psychiatry
Previous evidence has suggested that alterations in the activity of serotonin (a brain chemical involved in communication between nerve cells) may contribute to the appetite alteration in anorexia nervosa as well as playing a role in anxious, obsession behaviors and extremes of impulse control.
Researchers from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, had compared the activity of serotonin in women who had recovered from each of the two types of anorexia nervosa and a control group of healthy women using positron emission tomography (PET). The researchers injected a molecule that can bind to a serotonin receptor in much the same way that serotonin does into specific areas of the women's brains and used PET scans to measure the extent of the molecule-receptor binding. This molecule-receptor binding served as a marker for alterations of serotonin neuronal activity. Thirteen women recovered from restricting-type AN, 12 women with bulimia-type AN and 18 healthy control women were included in the study.
The researchers report increased binding of this marker molecule in several brain regions in women who had recovered from bulimia-type AN but not restricting-type AN. Only the women who had recovered restricting-type AN showed any correlation between core eating disorder symptoms and binding potential. In these women receptor binding was correlated with a measure of anxiety called harm avoidance.