Background: Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) and anorexia nervosa (AN) are both characterized by distorted perception of appearance. Previous studies in BDD suggest abnormalities in visual processing of own and others' faces, but no study has examined visual processing of faces in AN, nor directly compared the two disorders in this respect.
Method: We collected functional magnetic resonance imaging data on 60 individuals of equivalent age and gender in each of three groups--20 BDD, 20 weight-restored AN, and 20 healthy controls (HC)--while they viewed images of others' faces that contained only high or low spatial frequency information (HSF or LSF). We tested hypotheses about functional connectivity within specialized sub-networks for HSF and LSF visual processing, using psychophysiological interaction analyses.
Results: The BDD group demonstrated increased functional connectivity compared to HC between left anterior occipital face area and right fusiform face area (FFA) for LSF faces, which was associated with symptom severity. Both BDD and AN groups had increased connectivity compared to HC between FFA and precuneous/posterior cingulate gyrus for LSF faces, and decreased connectivity between FFA and insula. In addition, we found that LSF connectivity between FFA and posterior cingulate gyrus was significantly associated with thoughts about own appearance in AN.
Conclusions: Results suggest similar abnormal functional connectivity within higher-order systems for face processing in BDD and AN, but distinct abnormal connectivity patterns within occipito-temporal visual networks. Findings may have implications for understanding relationships between these disorders, and the pathophysiology underlying perceptual distortions.
Keywords: Anorexia nervosa; body dysmorphic disorder; functional connectivity; psychophysiological interaction.