Charting Cerebral Blood Flow in Anorexics with Binge-Purge Behavior

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
March/April 2001 Volume 12, Number 2
©2001 Gürze Books

Tetsuro Naruo, MD, and co-workers at Kagoshima University, Japan, have used single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) to chart distinct changes in cerebral blood flow among patients with anorexia nervosa (Am J Psychiatry 2000; 157:1520).

They studied 21 female patients: 7 with restricting AN, 7 with AN and habitual binge-purge behavior, and 7 healthy controls. The women were asked to visualize a piece of custard cake for 10 seconds and then to imagine themselves eating the cake for 5 minutes. SPECT scans were made before and after the women visualized eating the cake.

After visualization, women with habitual binge/purge behavior had the greatest apprehension about food intake and a significantly higher percentage of increased cerebral blood flow in the inferior, superior, prefrontal, and parietal regions of the right brain than the others.

The neural pathways involved in the recall of events may have an important role in binge eating and purging among anorexic patients. Their findings also suggest a close association between neural network activation and episodic memory retrieval. The fact that specific activation of cortical regions of the brain plays an important role in perception and memory suggests an association between habitual binge/purge behavior and the cerebral recognition process.

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