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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.
Gray matter (GM) ‘pseudoatrophy’ is well-documented in patients with anorexia nervosa (AN), but changes in white matter (WM) are less well understood. Here we investigated the dynamics of microstructural WM brain changes in AN patients during short-term weight restoration in a combined longitudinal and cross-sectional study design.
Diffusion-weighted images were acquired in young AN patients before (acAN-Tp1, n = 56) and after (acAN-Tp2, n = 44) short-term weight restoration as well as in age-matched healthy controls (HC, n = 60). Images were processed using Tract-Based-Spatial-Statistics to compare fractional anisotropy (FA) across groups and timepoints.
In the cross-sectional comparison, FA was significantly reduced in the callosal body in acAN-Tp1 compared with HC, while no differences were found between acAN-Tp2 and HC. In the longitudinal arm, FA increased with weight gain in acAN-Tp2 relative to acAN-Tp1 in large parts of the callosal body and the fornix, while it decreased in the right corticospinal tract.
Our findings reveal that dynamic, bidirectional changes in WM microstructure in young underweight patients with AN can be reversed with brief weight restoration therapy. These results parallel those previously observed in GM and suggest that alterations in WM in non-chronic AN are also state-dependent and rapidly reversible with successful intervention.
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