Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Altered Brain Chemistry In Bulimia Nervosa Patients Persists After Recovery, According To UPMC Researchers

Date:
October 15, 1998
Source:
University Of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Summary:
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's (UPMC) Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic have found evidence supporting the possibility that an alteration of brain chemistry contributes to the development of bulimia nervosa and persists even after recovery from the disorder.

New Findings Suggest A Biological Cause For Eating Disorders

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 14 -- Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's (UPMC) Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic have found evidence supporting the possibility that an alteration of brain chemistry contributes to the development of bulimia nervosa and persists even after recovery from the disorder.

The UPMC study, authored by Walter H. Kaye, M.D., professor of psychiatry, appears in the October issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Women with bulimia nervosa, when bingeing and purging, are known to have alterations of brain serotonin activity and mood as well as obsessions with perfectionism. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. This study found that these alterations and symptoms persisted after recovery from bulimia nervosa, suggesting that they are not merely a consequence of abnormal eating behaviors. Theoretically, altered serotonin activity could cause anxious and obsessive behaviors and affect the control of appetite and thus contribute to a vulnerability to develop bulimia nervosa.

"The development of an eating disorder is often attributed to the effects of our cultural environment, such as the mass media, which places a heavy emphasis on slimness. But while all women are exposed to these cultural mores, only a small percentage develop an eating disorder. Our study may have identified a biological risk factor that plays a part in deciding who develops a disorder," explained Dr. Kaye. "This study is important because it will help shift focus to the underlying causes of bulimia nervosa so that we can develop better treatments in the future and possibly identify people at risk for the disorder before it occurs."

Bulimia nervosa affects about 1 to 3 percent of women and most commonly occurs in women who are of normal body weight. Onset is usually during adolescence and is characterized by bingeing and purging, either by vomiting or using laxatives. Women with the disease often have a distorted image of their bodies, changes in brain chemistry and psychiatric symptoms such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and alcohol or other substance abuse. Though researchers know the symptoms and effects of bulimia, the exact causes of the disorder have yet to be uncovered.

Because malnutrition associated with eating disorders affects brain chemistry, Dr. Kaye and his colleagues compared 31 healthy volunteer women to 30 women who had recovered from bulimia nervosa--they were of normal body weight, had regular menstrual cycles and had not binged or purged for more than a year. The researchers assessed the recovered bulimia nervosa participants for persistent behavior disturbances and measured cerebrospinal fluid levels of the major metabolites of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. They also gave the participants a non-therapeutic drug, m-chlorophenylpiperazine (m-CPP), that specifically affects the serotonin system and elicits hormonal and behavioral responses.

Dr. Kaye's team found that, compared to the healthy volunteers, the recovered women had increased levels of the serotonin metabolite and more negative moods and obsessions with perfectionism and exactness. The levels of the other brain chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine, were normal in comparison. In addition, the group of recovered bulimia nervosa women had more anxiety and disorganized behavioral responses to m-CPP.

"While further research in this area is needed, we are beginning to gain an understanding of some of the causes of bulimia nervosa. Our hope is that this knowledge will contribute to more effective treatments and preventive measures for this disorder," said Dr. Kaye.

Dr. Kaye is principal investigator for a multinational study sponsored by the Price Foundation that may help pinpoint a genetic basis for bulimia nervosa. Research sites at U.S. universities in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles as well as Canada, Germany and Italy are recruiting 400 women and men with the disorder who also have a biological relative with similar eating concerns or problems. These relative pairs will provide blood samples for genetic analysis and will be interviewed about their disorder. These sites are seeking people with bulimia nervosa who have a relative with an eating disorder to participate in this study. Because these procedures can be performed where a patient lives, no traveling is required.

To learn more about this research, please call toll-free 1-888-895-3886, or e-mail to info@cope.wpic.pitt.edu. All communication is confidential, and participants are paid upon completion of the study.

For additional information about UPMC Health System, please access http://www.upmc.edu.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "Altered Brain Chemistry In Bulimia Nervosa Patients Persists After Recovery, According To UPMC Researchers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 October 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981015080402.htm>.
University Of Pittsburgh Medical Center. (1998, October 15). Altered Brain Chemistry In Bulimia Nervosa Patients Persists After Recovery, According To UPMC Researchers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981015080402.htm
University Of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "Altered Brain Chemistry In Bulimia Nervosa Patients Persists After Recovery, According To UPMC Researchers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981015080402.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins