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Front Hum Neurosci. 2015 Jun 2;9:301. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00301. eCollection 2015.

Aberrant early visual neural activity and brain-behavior relationships in anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder.

Author information

1
Department of Neuroscience, University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA, USA.
2
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA, USA.
3
Department of Neuroscience, University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA, USA ; Department of Psychiatry, University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) and anorexia nervosa (AN) share the clinical symptom of disturbed body image, which may be a function of perceptual distortions. Previous studies suggest visual or visuospatial processing abnormalities may be contributory, but have been unable to discern whether these occur early or late in the visual processing stream. We used electroencephalography (EEG) and visual event related potentials (ERP) to investigate early perceptual neural activity associated with processing visual stimuli.

METHODS:

We performed EEG on 20 AN, 20 BDD, 20 healthy controls, all unmedicated. In order to probe configural/holistic and detailed processing, participants viewed photographs of faces and houses that were unaltered or filtered to low or high spatial frequencies, respectively. We calculated the early ERP components P100 and N170, and compared amplitudes and latencies among groups.

RESULTS:

P100 amplitudes were smaller in AN than BDD and healthy controls, regardless of spatial frequency or stimulus type (faces or houses). Similarly, N170 latencies were longer in AN than healthy controls, regardless of spatial frequency or stimulus type, with a similar pattern in BDD at trend level significance. N170 amplitudes were smaller in AN than controls for high and normal spatial frequency images, and smaller in BDD than controls for normal spatial frequency images, regardless of stimulus type. Poor insight correlated with lower N170 amplitudes for normal and low spatial frequency faces in the BDD group.

CONCLUSIONS:

Individuals with AN exhibit abnormal early visual system activity, consistent with reduced configural processing and enhanced detailed processing. This is evident regardless of whether the stimuli are appearance-or non-appearance-related, and thus may be a reflection of general, early perceptual abnormalities. As N170 amplitude could be a marker of structural encoding of faces, lower values may be associated with perceptual distortions and could contribute to poor insight in BDD. Future studies may explore visual ERP measures as potential biomarkers of illness phenotype.

KEYWORDS:

anorexia nervosa; body dysmorphic disorder; dorsal ventral streams; electroencephalography; visual processing

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