Bulimia Nervosa – Brain Connections and Therapies

           There may well be more than just meets the eye in the physical and emotional crisis that is Bulimia Nervosa according to recent research. Eating disorders affect more than just the body.


            In fact, women with bulimia nervosa appear to respond more impulsively during psychological testing than those without the disorder, and they display differences in nerve pathways – frontostriatal circuits – that help individuals control their voluntary behaviors.

            Patients with bulimia nervosa displayed greater impulsivity than did healthy control participants, in a study conducted by Rachel marsh, Ph.D. and colleagues at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. In the study, patients with bulimia showed greater impulsivity than control patients, responded more quickly and made more errors on “conflict trials” that required self-regulatory control to respond correctly. In the research study, the frontostriatal circuits of bulimia patients did not activate to the same degree as did those of women in the control group.  

            For more information, see: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090105175031.htm

            In an earlier report, it appears that the brain’s opioids receptor system – also known as the endorphin system – may hold the key to understanding and treating bulimia. Researcher Angela Guarda, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, found differences in the brains of bulimic and healthy women in specific receptor sites in the left insular cortex of the brain. The insula is involved in processing taste, as well as the anticipation of the reward of eating. It is also involved in drug addiction and gambling.

            Bulimia, which is 10 times more common in females than in males, affects one to two percent of adolescent girls and young women in the United States and, in rare cases, may be fatal.

            J. James Frost, M.D., Ph.D., professor of radiology and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins, indicated that medications that affect the brain’s opioids receptor system and approaches to the treatment of substance abuse disorders – including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and 12-Step-like programs – may be helpful in treating bulimia.

            For additional information, see: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050811092434.htm

            In 2008, the team at Brain Training Centers of Florida began working with a number of women with eating disorders – especially bulimia nervosa and periodic binging – to assist them in harmonizing their brains and, as a result, limiting or eliminating their eating disorders. To date, the results have been extremely encouraging and the staff of BTC-FL is expanding its services in this area.

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.
7740 Southwest 52 Avenue
Miami, Florida 33143
(305) 271-0973

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