Neuroimaging studies in anorexia nervosa (AN) suggest that altered food reward processing may result from dysfunction in both limbic reward and cortical control centers of the brain. This fMRI study aimed to index the neural correlates of food reward in a subsample of individuals with restrictive AN: twelve currently ill, fourteen recovered individuals and sixteen healthy controls. Participants were shown pictures of high and low-calorie foods and asked to evaluate how much they wanted to eat each one following a four hour fast. Whole-brain task-activated analysis was followed by psychophysiological interaction analysis (PPI) of the amygdala and caudate. In the AN group, we observed a differential pattern of activation in the lateral frontal pole: increasing following presentation of high-calorie stimuli and decreasing in during presentation of low-calorie food pictures, the opposite of which was seen in the healthy control (HC) group. In addition, decreased activation to food pictures was observed in somatosensory regions in the AN group. PPI analyses suggested hypo-connectivity in reward pathways, and between the caudate and both somatosensory and visual processing regions in the AN group. No significant between-group differences were observed between the recovered group and the currently ill and healthy controls in the PPI analysis. Taken together, these findings further our understanding of the neural processes which may underpin the avoidance of high-calorie foods in those with AN and might exacerbate the development of compulsive weight-loss behavior, despite emaciation.
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Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Warneford Hospital, Oxford OX3 7JX, UK. Electronic address: email@example.com.