Brain volume loss caused by anorexia can be regained

Washington: A team of psychologists and neuroscientists have found that adult brain volume, which can be reduced by anorexia nervosa, can be regained.

They revealed that through specialist treatment patients with this eating disorder can reverse this symptom and regain grey matter volume.

Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is a serious psychiatric eating disorder of excessive weight loss caused by relentless dieting.

The starvation that results from this illness affects physiological systems throughout the body, including the brain.

But until now it has been unclear if and when brain volume reduction can be reversed through specialist treatment.

"Anorexia Nervosa wreaks havoc on many different parts of the body, including the brain," said study leader Christina Roberto from Yale University.

"In our study we measured brain volume deficits among underweight patients with the illness to evaluate if the decline is reversible thought short-term weight restoration."

The team, based at the Columbia University Centre for Eating Disorders used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to take pictures of the brains of 32 adult female inpatients with anorexia nervosa and 21 healthy women without any psychiatric illnesses.

The scans indicated that when the women with anorexia nervosa were in a state of starvation they had less grey matter brain volume compared to the healthy women.

Those who had the illness the longest had the greatest reductions in brain volume when underweight.

"The good news is that when women with anorexia nervosa received treatment at a specialised eating disorders inpatient unit at Columbia University which helped them gain to a normal weight, the deficits in brain volume began to reverse over the course of only several weeks of weight gain," said Roberto.

"This suggests that the reductions in brain matter volume that results from starvation can be reversed with appropriate treatment aimed at weight restoration," added Roberto, according to an Yale release.

These findings were published in the International Journal of Eating.