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We have previously shown increased anticipatory and consummatory neural responses to rewarding and aversive food stimuli in women recovered from anorexia nervosa (AN).
To determine whether these differences are trait markers for AN, we examined the neural response in those with a familial history but no personal history of AN.
Thirty-six volunteers were recruited: 15 who had a sister with anorexia nervosa (family history) and 21 control participants. Using fMRI we examined the neural response during an anticipatory phase (food cues, rewarding and aversive), an effort phase and a consummatory phase (rewarding and aversive tastes).
Family history (FH) volunteers showed increased activity in the caudate during the anticipation of both reward and aversive food and in the thalamus and amygdala during anticipation of aversive only. FH had decreased activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, the pallidum and the superior frontal gyrus during taste consumption.
Increased neural anticipatory but decreased consummatory responses to food might be a biomarker for AN. Interventions that could normalise these differences may help to prevent disorder onset.
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