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Patients who have Recovered from Anorexia can Regain Lost Brain Volume

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A team of American psychologists and neuroscientists have found that adult brain volume (grey matter volume), which can be reduced by anorexia nervosa, can be regained. The research showed that the damage caused by anorexia can be reversed when the patient fully recovers from the anorexia nervosa and is eating properly again.

Anorexia & the Brain

"Anorexia Nervosa wreaks havoc on many different parts of the body, including the brain," said team leader Christina Roberto, MS, MPhil 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."

Clinical Study

The research team, located at the Columbia University Center for Eating Disorders used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to take images of the brains of 32 adult female inpatients with anorexia and 21 healthy women without anorexia.

Clinical Study Results

The scanned images showed that when the women with anorexia were in a state of starvation they had less grey matter brain volume compared to the non-anorexic women. “Those who had the illness the longest had the greatest reductions in brain volume when underweight.”

Statement about the Study from Christina Roberto, MS, Mphil

"The good news is that when women with Anorexia Nervosa received treatment at a specialized 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."

Source: Brain tissue volume changes following weight gain in adults with anorexia nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 2010