Developing body estimation in adolescence is associated with neural regions that support self-concept

Yara J Toenders*, Hannah Dorsman, Renske van der Cruijsen, Eveline A Crone

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Both self-concept, the evaluation of who you are, and the physical body undergo changes throughout adolescence. These two processes might affect the development of body image, a complex construct that comprises one's thoughts, feelings, and perception of one's body. This study aims to better understand the development of body image in relation to self-concept development and its neural correlates. Adolescents (aged 11-24) from the longitudinal Leiden Self-Concept study were followed for three consecutive years (NT1 = 160, NT2 = 151, and NT3 = 144). Their body image was measured using a figure rating scale and body dissatisfaction questionnaire. Body estimation was calculated based on figure ratings relative to their actual body mass index (BMI). Additionally, participants evaluated their physical appearance traits in an functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) task. Results revealed that body estimation and body dissatisfaction increased with age. Heightened inferior parietal lobe (IPL) activation during physical self-evaluation was associated with lower body estimation, meaning that the neural network involved in thinking about one's physical traits is more active for individuals who perceive themselves as larger than they are. IPL activity showed continued development during adolescence, suggesting an interaction between neural development and body perception. These findings highlight the complex interplay between affective, perceptual, and biological factors in shaping body image.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbernsae042
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2024

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© The Author(s) 2024. Published by Oxford University Press.


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