Endophenotypes and Biomarkers in Eating Disorders: Genetic Underpinnings, Personality Traits, Vulnerabilities – Part 2

This post continues the discussion of the chapter on eating disorders by Carolina Lopez, Marion Roberts, and Janet Treasure from The Handbook of Neuropsychiatric Biomarkers, Endophenotypes and Genes (2009). Part 1 focused on neurotransmitter biomarkers, and this second part will focus on the neuropsychological biomarkers.

NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL BIOMARKERS

Attentional biases

Attentional bias is the tendency for individuals to attend to or be distracted by emotionally relevant stimuli over neutral stimuli. Attentional biases have been observed in several studies:

  • Current AN and BN individuals showed bias towards food, body-related stimuli.
  • Past AN but not past BN showed bias towards body shape concerns.
  • Both current and “long-term recovered” AN showed “abnormally higher activation in the medial prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices in response to food stimuli using fMRI [brain imaging]” (232)

These biases can be minimal but annoying: waiting in line at the pharmacy, staring into space and finding your focus … Continue reading →

Is Anorexia Nervosa a Version of Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Patients with anorexia nervosa often have difficulties recognizing and regulating emotions. This  conclusion that is largely based on data from  common tests such as Reading the Mind in the Eyes assessing  emotion recognition, and questionnaires like Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) assessing emotion regulation (see my post here).  Although that study compared currently ill patients with healthy controls (thus raising the possibility that the resulting data was due to the effects of starvation or due to the chronic nature of the ED  in the sample, ~7.5 year on average), there is some evidence that some of these difficulties persist post-recovery.

Individuals with autism (ASD, or autism spectrum disorders) also have difficulties with emotion recognition and regulation, leading some investigators to hypothesize that AN and ASD may share common etiology. Providing further support for this hypothesis are studies suggesting that AN might be overrepresented in ASD … Continue reading →