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Int J Eat Disord. 2018 Sep;51(9):1056-1069. doi: 10.1002/eat.22918. Epub 2018 Sep 13.

Recovery of cortical volume and thickness after remission from acute anorexia nervosa.

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Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Section for Experimental Neuropsychiatry, Medical Center, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.
Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, Medical Center, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.
Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical Center, University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany.



Reduced grey (GM) and white matter (WM) volumes and increased cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) have been frequently reported in anorexia nervosa (AN), but studies focusing on cortical thickness (CT) are scarce and findings inconsistent. We conducted the first study in AN that analyzed both parameters in the same study to gain novel and comprehensive insight.


Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis was performed on T1-weighted magnetic resonance images from 34 predominantly adult women with acute AN, 24 REC participants, and 41 healthy controls (HC). Global brain segment volumes (GM, WM, and CSF), regional GM volume, and cortical thickness measures were obtained from the same study sample. We further focused on recovery by including a REC group.


The GM and WM volumes were decreased, and correspondingly, the CSF volume increased in the AN in comparison to the HC and REC groups. No significant volume differences between the REC and HC groups could be observed. AN patients showed reduced regional GM volumes in the right hippocampus and the left middle and right inferior frontal gyrus. Cortical thinning occurred in the AN group, which was particularly robust in fronto-parietal areas. The REC and HC groups failed to show any regional GM or cortical thickness differences.


AN is accompanied by severe loss of brain volume and cortical thickness as assessed by complementary investigation tools. However, these changes seem to be largely reversible, which should be encouraging for therapists and patients. The underlying neurobiological mechanisms remain unclear and should be assessed in further studies.


anorexia nervosa; cortical thickness; grey matter; voxel-based morphometry; white matter


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