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Altered sensitization patterns to sweet food stimuli in patients recovered from anorexia and bulimia nervosa


Recent studies show that higher-order appetitive neural circuitry may contribute to restricted eating in anorexia nervosa (AN) and overeating in bulimia nervosa (BN). The purpose of this study was to determine whether sensitization effects might underlie pathologic eating behavior when a taste stimulus is administered repeatedly. Recovered AN (RAN, n=14) and BN (RBN, n=15) subjects were studied in order to avoid the confounding effects of altered nutritional state. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measured higher-order brain response to repeated tastes of sucrose (caloric) and sucralose (non-caloric). To test sensitization, the neuronal response to the first and second administration was compared. RAN patients demonstrated a decreased sensitization to sucrose in contrast to RBN patients who displayed the opposite pattern, increased sensitization to sucrose. However, the latter was not as pronounced as in healthy control women (n=13). While both eating disorder subgroups showed increased sensitization to sucralose, the healthy controls revealed decreased sensitization. These findings could reflect on a neuronal level the high caloric intake of RBN during binges and the low energy intake for RAN. RAN seem to distinguish between high energy and low energy sweet stimuli while RBN do not.

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