A study by researchers at the University of Colorado´s School of Medicine found that girls with anorexia nervosa had a larger insula, a part of the brain that is active when we taste food, and a larger orbitofrontal cortex, a part of the brain that tells a person when to stop eating.
The researchers recruited 19 adolescent girls with anorexia nervosa and 22 in a control group and used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study brain volumes. Individuals with anorexia nervosa showed greater left orbitofrontal, right insular, and bilateral temporal cortex gray matter compared to the control group. In individuals with anorexia nervosa, orbitofrontal gray matter volume related negatively with sweet tastes.
This study suggests that larger volume in this brain area could be a trait across eating disorders that promotes these individuals to stop eating faster than in healthy individuals, before eating enough.
The right insula is a region that processes taste, as well as integrates body perception and this could contribute to the perception of being fat despite being underweight.
This study is complementary to another that found adults with anorexia and individuals who had recovered from this illness also had differences in brain size, previously published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, 2013.
This study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.