Original article| Volume 58, ISSUE 12, P990-997, December 15, 2005

Functional Neuroanatomy of Body Shape Perception in Healthy and Eating-Disordered Women


      Abnormalities in perception and evaluation of body shape are a hallmark of eating disorders.


      Brain responses to line drawings of underweight, normal weight, and overweight female bodies were measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging in 9 women with bulimia nervosa, 13 with anorexia nervosa, and 18 healthy women. Participants rated the stimuli for fear and disgust.


      In the three groups, the lateral fusiform gyrus, inferior parietal cortex, and lateral prefrontal cortex were activated in response to body shapes compared with the control condition (drawings of houses). The responses in the lateral fusiform gyrus and in the parietal cortex were less strong in patients with eating disorders compared with healthy control subjects. Patients with eating disorders rated the body shapes in all weight categories as more aversive than did healthy women. In the group with eating disorders, the aversion ratings correlated positively with activity in the right medial apical prefrontal cortex.


      Processing of female body shapes engages a distributed neural network, parts of which are underactive in women with eating disorders. The considerable variability in subjective emotional reaction to body shapes in patients with eating disorders is associated with differential activity in the prefrontal cortex.

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