as not being allowed to wear makeup or your favorite pair of jeans,”
Wierenga says. “Those are privileges that you have to earn back.”
Emphasizing the neurobiology of the disorders also reduces
stigma, Zucker says, and helps parents better understand how to
support their children during treatment.
“Eating disorders seem very behavioral. Sometimes it even seems
oppositional when a child refuses to eat,” she says. “Showing there
are brain circuits that are not functioning effectively gives parents
some pause, and helps them understand their child’s illness.”
There’s a lot left to learn about the neurobiology of eating
disorders, including whether the neurobiological risk factors are
similar across racial and ethnic groups, and how those physical
factors might interact with cultural messages about weight and
body image. In the meantime, using neuroscience insights to
motivate and educate patients and their families is a great place to
start in treating eating disorders, Zucker says. Hopefully, that’s just
the beginning. She and her colleagues in the field are beginning
to develop potential new interventions, ranging from deep brain
stimulation to cognitive training exercises, that could reformat a
faulty brain circuit.
“It’s an exciting time, and it’s on us as researchers to take these
findings and develop targeted interventions,” she says. n
• Foerde, K., Steinglass, J. E., Shohamy, D., &
Walsh, B. T. (2015). Neural mechanisms supporting
maladaptive food choices in anorexia nervosa.
Nature Neuroscience, 18, 1571–1573.
• Frank, G. K. W. (2015). Advances from
neuroimaging studies in eating disorders.
CNS Spectrums, 20, 391–400. doi: 10.1017/
• Kaye, W. H., Wierenga, C. E., Bailer, U. F.,
Simmons, A. N., & Bischoff-Grethe, A. (2013).
Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels: The
neurobiology of anorexia nervosa. Trends in
Neuroscience, 36( 2), 110–120. doi: 10.1016/j.
• Kaye, W. H., Wierenga, C. E., Knatz, S.,
Liang, J., Boutelle, K., Hill, L., & Eisler, I. (2014).
Temperament-based treatment for anorexia nervosa.
European Eating Disorders Review. doi: 10.1002/
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