Body image distortions in bulimia nervosa: Investigating body size overestimation and body size satisfaction by fMRI

HM Mohr, CH Roder, J Zimmermann, D Hummel, A Negele, R Grabhorn

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51 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Body image distortion is a key symptom of eating disorders. In behavioral research two components of body image have been defined: attitudes towards the body and body size estimation. Only few fMRI-studies investigated the neural correlates of body image in bulimia; those are constrained by the lack of a direct distinction between these different body image components. Methods: The present study investigates the neural correlates of two aspects of the body image using fMRI: satisfaction rating and size estimation of distorted own body photographs in bulimia nervosa patients (15) and controls (16). Results: Patients were less satisfied with their current body shape than controls and preferred to be thinner. The amount of insula activity reflects the pattern of the satisfaction rating for patients and controls. Patients also overestimated their own body size. For control subjects, an activated cluster in lateral occipital cortex was sensitive for body size distortions, whereas bulimic patients did not demonstrate such a modulation. Furthermore, bulimic subjects did not recruit the middle frontal gyrus (MFG) in contrast to controls during the body size estimation task, maybe indicating a reduced spatial manipulation capacity. Therefore, this activation pattern of lateral occipital cortex and MFG might be responsible for body size overestimation in bulimia. Conclusions: The present results show that bulimic patients exhibit two distinct deficits in body image representations similar to anorectic patients and that specifically associated neuronal correlates can be identified. Concludingly, our study support psychotherapeutic strategies specifically targeting these two aspects of body image distortions. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)1822-1831
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Research programs

  • EMC OR-01-58-01

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