Anorexia nervosa is linked to reduced brain structure in reward and somatosensory regions: a meta-analysis of VBM studies

BMC Psychiatry. 2013 Apr 9:13:110. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-13-110.


Background: Structural imaging studies demonstrate brain tissue abnormalities in eating disorders, yet a quantitative analysis has not been done.

Methods: In global and regional meta-analyses of 9 voxel-based morphometry (VBM) studies, with a total of 228 eating disorder participants (currently ill with anorexia nervosa), and 240 age-matched healthy controls, we compare brain volumes using global and regional analyses.

Results: Anorexia nervosa (AN) patients have global reductions in gray (effect size = -0.66) and white matter (effect size = -0.74) and increased cerebrospinal fluid (effect size = 0.98) and have regional decreases in left hypothalamus, left inferior parietal lobe, right lentiform nucleus and right caudate, and no significant increases. No significant difference in hemispheric lateralization was found.

Conclusions: Global and regional meta-analyses suggest that excessive restrained eating as found in those with anorexia nervosa coincides with structural brain changes analogous to clinical symptoms.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anorexia Nervosa / pathology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Humans
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology*
  • Nerve Fibers, Unmyelinated / pathology*
  • Organ Size