Purpose: Various neurobiological models have utilised symptom categories to explore the underlying neural correlates in both anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN). The aim of this research was to investigate the brain activity patterns associated with viewing food stimuli in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
Methods: Electronic databases including PsycInfo and PubMed were systematically searched from data base inception until 1st of December 2020, identifying 14 suitable functional magnetic resonance imaging studies (fMRI), involving 470 participants. ALE meta-analysis was used to statistically analyse the overlap of activation foci from different fMRI studies in response to visual food stimuli.
Results: Comparing patients with AN with healthy control (HC), we detected hypoactivation in brain areas related to reward processing (i.e., amygdala and lentiform nucleus), and interoceptive processing (i.e., insula). In addition, patients with AN showed hyperactivations in cognitive control areas (i.e., prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex). In contrast, patients with BN exhibited hyperactivations in brain areas related to reward processing (i.e., lentiform nucleus), and interoceptive processing (i.e., insula). Furthermore, patients with BN showed hypoactivations in brain regions associated with cognitive control (i.e., prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex).
Conclusions: Our study shows differing neural endotypes of the two types of eating disorders, that underpin their behavioural phenotypes. While exploratory in nature, these findings might be relevant for guiding new emerging therapies, including invasive and non-invasive neuromodulation techniques in treatment of eating disorders.
Level of evidence: Level I, meta-analysis.
Keywords: Anorexia nervosa; Bulimia nervosa; Eating disorder; fMRI.
© 2022. The Author(s).