Effects of cognitive-behavioral therapy on Eating Disorders: neurotransmitter secretory response to treatment

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2010 Jun;35(5):729-37. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.10.014. Epub 2009 Dec 4.


The effects of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) on central dopamine (DA), noradrenaline (NE) and serotonin (5-HT) secretion were studied in a group of 50 female inpatients, of which 14 suffered from anorexia nervosa restricted type (AN-R), 14 from anorexia nervosa bingeing-purging type (AN-BP), and 22 from bulimia nervosa (BN). The aim of the study was to see whether or not CBT modifies the secretion of central DA (blood homovanillic acid=HVA), NE (blood 3-methoxy-4-hydroxy-phenylglycol=MHPG) and the 5-HT transporter (as evaluated by the platelet paroxetine binding=[(3)H]-Par-binding), if the physical and psychological effects of CBT correlate with changes of the neurotransmitter secretion; and if the biological effects of CBT are linked to specific psychopathological aspect of the disorders. The treatment lasted 20 weeks. Body-mass Index, bingeing and purging, specific AN-BN psychopathological (EDE 12-OD), depression (Beck Inventory), anxiety (STAY Form-Y-1), impulsiveness (Barratt Impulsiveness Scale), self-esteem (Rosenberg Self-Biochemical Scale) and temperament (Temperament and Character Inventory, Cloninger Scale) were assessed at baseline and at the end of the treatment. CBT significantly improved the psychophysical aspects of the diseases. HVA and MHPG concentrations did not change. The [(3)H]-Par-binding parameters, the maximum binding capacity (B(max)) and dissociation constant (K(d)) values did not change in either AN-R or AN-BP patients, while the [(3)H]-Par B(max) (and not the K(d)) increased significantly in BN patients. Correlations emerged between basal and final [(3)H]-Par B(max) values and psychopathological scores, but not between CBT-induced differences between basal and final values. Our data suggest that only in BN CBT may act through changes in 5-HT system function.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Biogenic Monoamines / metabolism*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / blood*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / therapy*
  • Female
  • Homovanillic Acid / blood
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / blood
  • Methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol / blood
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Self Concept
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / blood
  • Temperament


  • Biogenic Monoamines
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol
  • Homovanillic Acid