Recovery from anorexia nervosa includes neural compensation for negative body image


  • Supported from Klarman Family Foundation Grants Program in Eating Disorders Research and by the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship Program.



To examine whether frontal lobe mediated regulation of emotion permits women to recover from anorexia nervosa (AN).


Brain activity associated with the disruption of working memory by images of bodies was examined in women who had recovered from AN and in control women.


Negatively rated images were more disruptive to working memory than neutral or positively rated images in both groups; however, amygdala and fusiform activation were greater in women who had recovered from AN than in controls when viewing images of bodies during the working memory task. There were no group differences in lateral prefrontal activity. However, there was more suppression of medial prefrontal cortex activity in women who had recovered from AN in comparison to controls when negatively rated images were presented during the working memory task.


These results suggest that recovery from AN is not achieved by dampening an amygdala mediated emotional response to bodies, but instead by developing compensatory neural mechanisms that prevent emotional responses from disturbing cognition. © 2012 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2012)