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Keywords:

  • fMRI;
  • body image;
  • body shape;
  • bulimia nervosa;
  • self reflection;
  • medial prefrontal cortex

Abstract

Objective:

Cognitive-behavioral theories of eating disorder etiology emphasize the role of body-oriented self-schemas. Examination of brain regions associated with self-referencing, such as medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), during processing of body-related stimuli can thus be utilized to evaluate such theories.

Method:

Twelve women with bulima nervosa (BN) and 12 comparison women underwent functional brain imaging while viewing images of women with either thin or overweight bodies in a self-referencing context.

Results:

For thin bodies, there was no significant mPFC activation for either group. For overweight bodies, mPFC activation was significantly greater for BN patients, with a focus in subregions associated with emotional processing.

Discussion:

These findings are consistent with cognitive models of eating disorders which posit that negative body-related stimuli are more central to self-schemas and more emotionally provocative in persons with eating disorders, lending support to treatment and prevention interventions that emphasize body overvaluation as a primary target of change. © 2011 by Wiley Periodicals,Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2012)