Background: The endocannabinoid system is a possible target in the treatment of eating disorders. We used positron emission tomography to investigate the type 1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1R) in bulimic and anorectic patients.
Methods: We investigated 16 female bulimia nervosa patients (BN) (age = 23.8 ± 7.1 years) and 14 female anorexia nervosa patients (AN) (age = 20.5 ± 3.6 years) using the selective CB1R ligand [(18)F]MK-9470. The control group consisted of 19 age-matched women (age = 25.2 ± 8.5 years). Statistical parametric mapping (p(family-wise error) < .05) and volume-of-interest analyses of CB1R availability were performed.
Results: Global CB1R availability was significantly increased in cortical and subcortical brain areas in AN patients compared with healthy control subjects (+24.5%, p = .0003). Regionally, CB1R availability was increased in the insula in both AN and BN patients (p = .01 and p = .0004) and the inferior frontal and temporal cortex in AN patients only (p = .02).
Conclusions: Global CB1R upregulation in AN patients is a possible long-term compensatory mechanism to an underactive endocannabinoid system in anorectic conditions. There is a similarity in CB1R dysregulation both in AN and BN in the insular cortex, which is involved in the integration of interoceptive information, gustatory information, reward, and emotion processing.
Copyright © 2011 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.