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Anorexia nervosa (AN) and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) frequently co-occur, and have several overlapping phenomenological features. Little is known about their shared neurobiology. The aim of the study was to compare modular organization of brain structural connectivity.
We acquired diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging data on unmedicated individuals with BDD (n = 29), weight-restored AN (n = 24) and healthy controls (HC) (n = 31). We constructed connectivity matrices using whole-brain white matter tractography, and compared modular structures across groups.
AN showed abnormal modularity involving frontal, basal ganglia and posterior cingulate nodes. There was a trend in BDD for similar abnormalities, but no significant differences compared with AN. In AN, poor insight correlated with longer path length in right caudal anterior cingulate and right posterior cingulate.
Abnormal network organization patterns in AN, partially shared with BDD, may have implications for understanding integration between reward and habit/ritual formation, as well as conflict monitoring/error detection.
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) and anorexia nervosa (AN) are both characterized by distorted perception of appearance. Previous studies in BDD suggest abnormalities in visual processing of own and others’ faces, but no study has examined visual processing of faces in AN, nor directly compared the two disorders in this respect.
We collected functional magnetic resonance imaging data on 60 individuals of equivalent age and gender in each of three groups – 20 BDD, 20 weight-restored AN, and 20 healthy controls (HC) – while they viewed images of others’ faces that contained only high or low spatial frequency information (HSF or LSF). We tested hypotheses about functional connectivity within specialized sub-networks for HSF and LSF visual processing, using psychophysiological interaction analyses.
The BDD group demonstrated increased functional connectivity compared to HC between left anterior occipital face area and right fusiform face area (FFA) for LSF faces, which was associated with symptom severity. Both BDD and AN groups had increased connectivity compared to HC between FFA and precuneous/posterior cingulate gyrus for LSF faces, and decreased connectivity between FFA and insula. In addition, we found that LSF connectivity between FFA and posterior cingulate gyrus was significantly associated with thoughts about own appearance in AN.
Results suggest similar abnormal functional connectivity within higher-order systems for face processing in BDD and AN, but distinct abnormal connectivity patterns within occipito-temporal visual networks. Findings may have implications for understanding relationships between these disorders, and the pathophysiology underlying perceptual distortions.
Anorexia nervosa (AN) and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) are characterized by distorted body image and are frequently co-morbid with each other, although their relationship remains little studied. While there is evidence of abnormalities in visual and visuospatial processing in both disorders, no study has directly compared the two. We used two complementary modalities – event-related potentials (ERPs) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) – to test for abnormal activity associated with early visual signaling.
We acquired fMRI and ERP data in separate sessions from 15 unmedicated individuals in each of three groups (weight-restored AN, BDD, and healthy controls) while they viewed images of faces and houses of different spatial frequencies. We used joint independent component analyses to compare activity in visual systems.
AN and BDD groups demonstrated similar hypoactivity in early secondary visual processing regions and the dorsal visual stream when viewing low spatial frequency faces, linked to the N170 component, as well as in early secondary visual processing regions when viewing low spatial frequency houses, linked to the P100 component. Additionally, the BDD group exhibited hyperactivity in fusiform cortex when viewing high spatial frequency houses, linked to the N170 component. Greater activity in this component was associated with lower attractiveness ratings of faces.
Results provide preliminary evidence of similar abnormal spatiotemporal activation in AN and BDD for configural/holistic information for appearance- and non-appearance-related stimuli. This suggests a common phenotype of abnormal early visual system functioning, which may contribute to perceptual distortions.
Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) may have perceptual distortions for their appearance. Previous studies suggest imbalances in detailed relative to configural/holistic visual processing when viewing faces. No study has investigated the neural correlates of processing non-symptom-related stimuli. The objective of this study was to determine whether individuals with BDD have abnormal patterns of brain activation when viewing non-face/non-body object stimuli.
Fourteen medication-free participants with DSM-IV BDD and 14 healthy controls participated. We performed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while participants matched photographs of houses that were unaltered, contained only high spatial frequency (HSF, high detail) information or only low spatial frequency (LSF, low detail) information. The primary outcome was group differences in blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal changes.
The BDD group showed lower activity in the parahippocampal gyrus, lingual gyrus and precuneus for LSF images. There were greater activations in medial prefrontal regions for HSF images, although no significant differences when compared to a low-level baseline. Greater symptom severity was associated with lower activity in the dorsal occipital cortex and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex for normal spatial frequency (NSF) and HSF images.
Individuals with BDD have abnormal brain activation patterns when viewing objects. Hypoactivity in visual association areas for configural and holistic (low detail) elements and abnormal allocation of prefrontal systems for details are consistent with a model of imbalances in global versus local processing. This may occur not only for appearance but also for general stimuli unrelated to their symptoms.
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