Most people hate starving, hate prolonged hunger and suck at dieting. Patients with anorexia nervosa (AN), on the other hand, excel in these areas. How can someone like being hungry? How are they able to exert such “self-control” (as many non-ED people often say) over their food intake? Part of the answer might lie with serotonin. But don’t worry, there’s no “chemical imbalance” – it is much more complex than that.
In this post, I’m going to continue discussing the review article in Nature Neuroscience (2009) by Kaye et al., focusing on what is currently known or hypothesized about the role of serotonin in anorexia (reminder, findings Kaye et al focuses are specific to restricting-type AN and may not apply to AN-BP or BN).
BUT FIRST, A LITTLE NEUROSCIENCE
Serotonin (aka 5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT) is a neurotransmitter, meaning that it is a chemical messenger that cells in the brain use to communicate with one another. Neurons that make and release serotonin are located in a region called the raphe nucleus. These neurons project and “connect” to …
Journalists like to report on novel and exciting findings regardless of how likely they are to be replicated or how well they fit with everything else known about the topic. It is an all too common occurrence that a small pilot study which has favourable results, creates a buzz and gets into our heads, only to produce negative results once the sample size is increased. But the latter, negative finding, rarely makes it to the printing press. So, we are left thinking the results of the pilot study are correct, when they might be an outlier or a false positive.
Given this, I wanted to summarize an article that provides a critical overview of the current neuroimaging studies in anorexia nervosa. We can use this as an introduction to neuroimaging in AN: to get a sense of the scientific consensus, the trends that emerge and what can be learned from the data.
When reading studies on eating disorders, please keep in mind:
The ill state of the EDs, particularly of AN, can be accompanied by severe metabolic, electrolyte, and…