Although most people find pleasure in eating and even have a difficult time refraining from foods they love, individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa often say that eating makes them feel more anxious. Instead, refusing to eat — something called food refusal – is what brings more pleasure.
New research, published online in the journal International Journal of Eating Disorders, helps explain why these symptoms occur in anorexia.
For the study, scientists administered a one-time dose of the drug amphetamine which releases dopamine in the brain; positron emission tomography (PET) was then used to visualize the subsequent dopamine activity.
In healthy subjects without an eating disorder, the amphetamine-induced release of dopamine was associated with feelings of extreme pleasure in the brain’s “reward center.” However, in people with anorexia, amphetamine made them feel anxious and activated the part of the brain that worries about consequences.
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