Toward valid and reliable brain imaging results in eating disorders

Int J Eat Disord. 2018 Mar;51(3):250-261. doi: 10.1002/eat.22829. Epub 2018 Feb 5.


Human brain imaging can help improve our understanding of mechanisms underlying brain function and how they drive behavior in health and disease. Such knowledge may eventually help us to devise better treatments for psychiatric disorders. However, the brain imaging literature in psychiatry and especially eating disorders has been inconsistent, and studies are often difficult to replicate. The extent or severity of extremes of eating and state of illness, which are often associated with differences in, for instance hormonal status, comorbidity, and medication use, commonly differ between studies and likely add to variation across study results. Those effects are in addition to the well-described problems arising from differences in task designs, data quality control procedures, image data preprocessing and analysis or statistical thresholds applied across studies. Which of those factors are most relevant to improve reproducibility is still a question for debate and further research. Here we propose guidelines for brain imaging research in eating disorders to acquire valid results that are more reliable and clinically useful.

Keywords: brain imaging; eating disorders; guideline; method; reliability; validity.

MeSH terms

  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnostic imaging*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging / methods*