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Resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging studies have identified functional connectivity patterns associated with acute undernutrition in anorexia nervosa (AN), but few have investigated recovered patients. Thus, a trait connectivity profile characteristic of the disorder remains elusive. Using state-of-the-art graph–theoretic methods in acute AN, the authors previously found abnormal global brain network architecture, possibly driven by local network alterations. To disentangle trait from starvation effects, the present study examines network organization in recovered patients.
Graph–theoretic metrics were used to assess resting-state network properties in a large sample of female patients recovered from AN (recAN, n = 55) compared with pairwise age-matched healthy controls (HC, n = 55).
Indicative of an altered global network structure, recAN showed increased assortativity and reduced global clustering as well as small-worldness compared with HC, while no group differences at an intermediate or local network level were evident. However, using support-vector classifier on local metrics, recAN and HC could be separated with an accuracy of 70.4%.
This pattern of results suggests that long-term recovered patients have an aberrant global brain network configuration, similar to acutely underweight patients. While the finding of increased assortativity may represent a trait marker of AN, the remaining findings could be seen as a scar following prolonged undernutrition.
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