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Physiol Behav. 2005 May 19;85(1):73-81.

Serotonin alterations in anorexia and bulimia nervosa: new insights from imaging studies.

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University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, United States.


Anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) are related disorders with relatively homogenous presentations such as age of onset and gender distribution. In addition, they share symptoms, such as extremes of food consumption, body image distortion, anxiety and obsessions, and ego-syntonic neglect, raises the possibility that these symptoms reflect disturbed brain function that contributes to the pathophysiology of this illness. Recent brain imaging studies have identified altered activity in frontal, cingulate, temporal, and parietal cortical regions in AN and BN. Importantly, such disturbances are present when subjects are ill and persist after recovery, suggesting that these may be traits that are independent of the state of the illness. Emerging data point to a dysregulation of serotonin pathways in cortical and limbic structures that may be related to anxiety, behavioral inhibition, and body image distortions. In specific, recent studies using PET with serotonin specific radioligands implicate alterations of 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptors and the 5-HT transporter. Alterations of these circuits may affect mood and impulse control as well as the motivating and hedonic aspects of feeding behavior. Such imaging studies may offer insights into new pharmacology and psychotherapy approaches.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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