Neural processing of food and emotional stimuli in adolescent and adult anorexia nervosa patients

Journal article

Publication Details

Author(s): Horndasch S, Roesch J, Forster C, Dörfler A, Lindsiepe S, Heinrich H, Graap H, Moll G, Kratz O
Journal: PLoS ONE
Publication year: 2018
Volume: 13
Journal issue: 3
ISSN: 1932-6203


BACKGROUND: A constant preoccupation with food and restrictive eating are main symptoms of anorexia nervosa (AN). Imaging studies revealed aberrant neural activation patterns in brain regions processing hedonic and reward reactions as well as-potentially aversive-emotions. An imbalance between so called "bottom-up" and "top-down" control areas is discussed. The present study is focusing on neural processing of disease-specific food stimuli and emotional stimuli and its developmental course in adolescent and adult AN patients and could offer new insight into differential mechanisms underlying shorter or more chronic disease.
METHODS: 33 adolescents aged 12-18 years (15 AN patients, 18 control participants) and 32 adult women (16 AN patients, 16 control participants) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI, 3T high-field scanner) while watching pictures of high and low-calorie food and affective stimuli. Afterwards, they rated subjective valence of each picture. FMRI data analysis was performed using a region of interest based approach.
RESULTS: Pictures of high-calorie food items were rated more negatively by AN patients. Differences in activation between patients and controls were found in "bottom up" and "top down" control areas for food stimuli and in several emotion processing regions for affective stimuli which were more pronounced in adolescents than in adults.
CONCLUSION: A differential pattern was seen for food stimuli compared to generally emotion eliciting stimuli. Adolescents with AN show reduced processing of affective stimuli and enhanced activation of regions involved in "bottom up" reward processing and "top down" control as well as the insula with regard to food stimuli with a focus on brain regions which underlie changes during adolescent development. In adults less clear and less specific activation differences were present, pointing towards a high impact that regions undergoing maturation might have on AN symptoms.

FAU Authors / FAU Editors

Dörfler, Arnd Prof. Dr.
Neuroradiologische Abteilung im Radiologischen Institut
Forster, Clemens apl. Prof. Dr.
Lehrstuhl für Physiologie
Kratz, Oliver PD Dr.
Kinder- und Jugendabteilung für Psychische Gesundheit in der Psychiatrischen und Psychotherapeutischen Klinik

How to cite

Horndasch, S., Roesch, J., Forster, C., Dörfler, A., Lindsiepe, S., Heinrich, H.,... Kratz, O. (2018). Neural processing of food and emotional stimuli in adolescent and adult anorexia nervosa patients. PLoS ONE, 13(3).

Horndasch, Stefanie, et al. "Neural processing of food and emotional stimuli in adolescent and adult anorexia nervosa patients." PLoS ONE 13.3 (2018).


Last updated on 2019-27-02 at 14:53