Striatal dopamine in bulimia nervosa: a PET imaging study

Int J Eat Disord. 2012 Jul;45(5):648-56. doi: 10.1002/eat.20984. Epub 2012 Feb 13.


Objective: Bulimia nervosa (BN) has been characterized as similar to an addiction, though the empirical support for this characterization is limited. This study utilized PET imaging to determine whether abnormalities in brain dopamine (DA) similar to those described in substance use disorders occur in BN.

Method: PET imaging with [(11) C]raclopride, pre/post methylphenidate administration, to assess dopamine type 2 (D(2)) receptor binding (BP(ND)) and striatal DA release (ΔBP(ND)).

Results: There was a trend toward lower D(2) receptor BP(ND) in two striatal subregions in the patient group when compared with the control group. DA release in the putamen in the patient group was significantly reduced and, overall, there was a trend toward a difference in striatal DA release. Striatal DA release was significantly associated with the frequency of binge eating.

Discussion: These data suggest that BN is characterized by abnormalities in brain DA that resemble, in some ways, those described in addictive disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Brain Mapping
  • Bulimia Nervosa / diagnostic imaging
  • Bulimia Nervosa / metabolism*
  • Corpus Striatum / diagnostic imaging
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Methylphenidate / pharmacology
  • Neostriatum / diagnostic imaging
  • Neostriatum / drug effects
  • Neostriatum / metabolism
  • Positron-Emission Tomography*
  • Putamen / diagnostic imaging
  • Putamen / drug effects
  • Putamen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / metabolism*


  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Methylphenidate
  • Dopamine