New Study Finds Anorexia Related Brain Changes Can Be Reversed
It has long been known that anorexia nervosa causes significant brain changes, but new research offers hope for those recovering from the condition. Researchers have found that cortical thickness can return once an individual is healthy again.
Using advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, researchers from the Translational Developmental Neuroscience Lab led by Professor Stefan Ehrlich at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus at the TO Dresden (Facility of Medicine) examined the long-term effects of anorexia nervosa on brain structure.
In their report, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, the authors conclude, “The global thinning of cortical gray matter observed in acutely ill adolescent patients can be completely reversed following successful weight rehabilitation therapy”.
Previous studies of changes in brain structure associated with anorexia have been limited in their ability to truly answer questions about the specific areas of the brain and their persistence post-recovery. However, this study used a large sample of both acutely ill and long-term recovered patients to allow for precise measurement of cortical gray matter in the brain.
The study participants underwent MRI scanning immediately after being admitted to specialized eating disorder clinics at the Dresdener University Hospital and following successful therapy with complete restoration of normal weight, eating behavior, and menstruation. According to PsyPost.org, approximately half of patients that receive treatment successfully maintain all these criteria.
“We observed complete normalization of cortical gray matter thickness in the long-term weight rehabilitated patients in our sample”, exclaimed Prof. Ehrlich, “which is a particularly encouraging finding for those suffering from the disorder.”
Despite the optimistic findings, the study does warn that not all consequence of anorexia are reversible. Other issues such as reduction of bone mass due to osteoporosis are not able to be undone.