Could technology imaging tricks treat anorexia?
From surgical robots to apps that monitor your heartbeat, technology continues to provide new and innovative ways to treat health conditions.
But could it also work for anorexia?
A new study suggests that simple imaging tricks could be helpful in treating the eating disorder, which was recently reported to be associated with the highest mortality rate among all eating disorders, including bulimia and binge eating.
Matching heartbeats with virtual bodies
The study, conducted by Dr. Jane Aspell of Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, involved a type of out-of-body experience: Volunteers were made to feel as if they were inhabiting an image of their own body which was projected two meters away from their actual bodies. The key was that researchers synchronized the virtual image with the participants' heartbeats in real time.
Causing a strong identification with the body "double," the participants reported feeling as if they were actually closer to the virtual image body than to their own bodies. They also reported feeling a sensation of touch at some distance away from their real bodies.
"This research demonstrates that the experience of one's self can be altered when presented with information about the internal state of one's body, such as a heartbeat," said Aspell, senior lecturer in psychology at the university.
Patients with anorexia, said Aspell, tend to have a disconnection from their bodies, causing them to think they are larger than they actually are.
Since many people with eating disorders tend to still view themselves a certain way even after weight gain or loss, this type of technology might help the brain "update" it's representation of the body after it heals and changes in recovery.
"This experiment could be adapted to help people 'reconnect' with their current physical appearance," Aspell concluded. "It could help them realize what the 'real me' actually looks like."
Results of the study are published in the journal Psychological Science.