top of page
  • Writer's picturemindflowperformance

The Impact of Eating Disorders on the Brain

Dr Oliver Finlay


KEY POINTS


· Individuals with eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, exhibit reductions in grey matter volume in areas associated with cognitive control, reward processing, and body perception, suggesting neurobiological changes underlying the symptoms of eating disorders.


· White matter alterations are observed in individuals with eating disorders, including disruptions in the integrity and connectivity of white matter tracts, which may underlie cognitive impairments, emotional dysregulation, and disturbances in body image perception commonly seen in eating disorders.


· Individuals with eating disorders exhibit dysregulation of neurotransmitters, including alterations in serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and GABA levels in the brain, which are associated with symptoms such as disturbed appetite regulation, mood disturbances, reward processing abnormalities, and alterations in cognitive control, contributing to the development and maintenance of eating disorders.


· Individuals with eating disorders display dysregulation of hormones, including abnormalities in leptin and ghrelin levels, which contribute to disruptions in appetite regulation, energy balance, and body weight, playing a significant role in the development and persistence of eating disorders.


· Dysregulation of myokines, such as irisin, IL-6, and BDNF, is observed in individuals with eating disorders, which may contribute to altered energy metabolism, inflammation, and impaired neuroplasticity, potentially influencing the pathophysiology and symptomatology of eating disorders.


· Individuals with eating disorders exhibit dysfunction in neural circuits, including impaired cognitive control, altered reward system, dysregulated stress response and impaired emotional regulation, influencing the development and maintenance of eating disorders, highlighting the complex interplay between neural circuits and systems involved in these conditions.



Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that can have significant physical and psychological consequences. People of every age, race, size, gender identity, and sexual orientation experience eating disorders. According to National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), at least 10% of the population is struggling with an eating disorder, disordered eating, and/or body image.


Eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose. A staggering 26% of people with eating disorders attempt suicide and each year, suicide contributes to approximately 10,200 deaths (1 death every 52 minutes) that are the direct result of an eating disorder.


These statistics represent the high personal cost of eating disorders and yet the amount invested by federal and regional governments to support this cohort of the population is horrifically low in many countries. Given that the total estimated economic cost of eating disorders is $64.7 billion every year, perhaps it is time to realise that this societal issue needs far greater investment to improve accessibility to specialist resources and reduce the overall personal and economic impact of these diseases.


In recent years, scientific research has shed light on the intricate relationship between eating disorders and the physiology, structure, and function of the brain. This essay aims to explore the physical and physiological pathways through which eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, impact the brain.


Structural Changes in the Brain



Grey Matter Alterations


· Anorexia Nervosa


Individuals with anorexia nervosa often exhibit reductions in grey matter volume in key brain regions, such as the prefrontal cortex and insula. The prefrontal cortex is involved in decision-making, impulse control, and self-regulation, while the insula plays a role in body awareness and interoception. These reductions in grey matter may contribute to the cognitive distortions and distorted self-perception observed in individuals with anorexia nervosa (Konstantakopoulos et al., 2018).


· Bulimia Nervosa


Studies have found that individuals with bulimia nervosa may also experience grey matter alterations, particularly in brain regions involved in reward processing and self-regulation. These alterations affect areas such as the striatum and prefrontal cortex, leading to difficulties in regulating emotions and impulse control (Marsh et al., 2011).


White Matter Integrity


· Anorexia Nervosa


White matter, which enables communication between different brain regions, can also be affected by eating disorders. Research has shown disruptions in the integrity of white matter tracts in individuals with anorexia nervosa. These disruptions can hinder the transmission of signals between brain regions involved in reward processing, emotional regulation, and cognitive control (Hayes et al., 2019).


· Binge Eating Disorder:


White matter abnormalities have also been observed in individuals with binge eating disorder. These alterations impact connections between brain regions responsible for appetite regulation, self-control, and reward processing (Voon et al., 2015).



Physiological Changes in the Brain



Neurotransmitter Dysregulation


· Serotonin: Serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood and appetite, plays a crucial role in eating behaviours. Research suggests that alterations in the serotonin system are implicated in the development and maintenance of eating disorders. Low levels of serotonin have been associated with increased impulsivity, anxiety, and obsessions, which are commonly observed in individuals with eating disorders (Holland & Agahi, 2019).


· Dopamine: Dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward and motivation, is also implicated in the pathology of eating disorders. Dysregulated dopamine signalling can affect the brain's reward circuitry, leading to abnormal food-related behaviours, such as binge eating or excessive exercise. Altered dopamine function may contribute to the reinforcing properties of disordered eating behaviours (Wang et al., 2020).


· GABA and Glutamate: GABA and glutamate are neurotransmitters that play a role in inhibitory and excitatory signalling in the brain, respectively. Disruptions in GABA and glutamate balance have been reported in individuals with eating disorders, impacting the regulation of food intake, reward processing, and emotional functioning. These imbalances contribute to the development and maintenance of disordered eating behaviours (Kaye et al., 2018).


Hormonal Imbalances


· Leptin: Leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells, plays a crucial role in regulating appetite and energy balance. In individuals with anorexia nervosa, decreased leptin levels are observed, leading to disrupted hunger and satiety signals. This disruption can perpetuate restrictive eating behaviours and contribute to the maintenance of the disorder (Frederich et al., 2002).


· Ghrelin: Ghrelin, known as the "hunger hormone," stimulates appetite and promotes food intake. Studies have demonstrated altered ghrelin levels in individuals with eating disorders, with anorexia nervosa showing increased ghrelin levels and binge eating disorder showing blunted ghrelin response. These imbalances in ghrelin secretion can contribute to abnormal eating patterns and difficulties in food regulation (Klump et al., 2013).


Myokine Dysregulation


· Myokines and Metabolic Regulation: Myokines are a group of proteins secreted by skeletal muscle during exercise and physical activity. They play a role in various physiological processes, including metabolic regulation. Research suggests that myokines, such as irisin and interleukin-6 (IL-6), may influence appetite regulation, energy expenditure, and body weight. Dysregulation of myokine signalling may contribute to the development or maintenance of eating disorders by affecting energy balance and metabolism (Pedersen & Febbraio, 2012).


· Myokines and Brain Health: Emerging evidence indicates that myokines may also have direct effects on brain health and function. Some myokines, including Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), are known to cross the blood-brain barrier and exert neuroprotective and neurotrophic effects in the brain. BDNF is a protein that plays a crucial role in promoting the growth, development, and survival of neurons.


These effects suggest that myokines may play a role in modulating brain function and potentially influencing the development and progression of eating disorders (Pedersen, 2019). Studies have suggested that individuals with eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, may have altered levels of BDNF, which can impact brain neuroplasticity. Reduced BDNF levels have been associated with changes in brain structure and function, potentially contributing to the cognitive and emotional difficulties observed in eating disorders (Monteleone et al., 2018).


· BDNF and Reward Pathways: The reward pathways in the brain, which are involved in motivation and pleasure, are affected in individuals with eating disorders. BDNF has been implicated in modulating these reward pathways, particularly in relation to food intake and body weight regulation. Dysregulation of BDNF signalling in eating disorders may disrupt the brain's reward system, leading to abnormal eating behaviours and altered perceptions of food (Angelucci et al., 2020).



Functional Changes in the Brain



Altered Circuits, Systems and Pathways


· Impaired Cognitive Control


Individuals with eating disorders often exhibit impaired cognitive control, which involves the ability to regulate thoughts and behaviours. Brain imaging studies have shown that the prefrontal cortex, a region responsible for cognitive control, may be affected in individuals with eating disorders. This impairment contributes to difficulties in regulating eating behaviours and resisting urges related to food (Buhren et al., 2019).


· Altered Reward System


The brain's reward system, which involves the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, is closely linked to eating behaviours. In eating disorders, there is evidence of dysregulated reward processing. For example, individuals with anorexia nervosa may experience reduced responsiveness to food-related rewards, while those with binge eating disorder may exhibit heightened activation of reward areas in response to food cues (Kaye et al., 2013).


· Emotional Regulation


Eating disorders are also associated with difficulties in emotional regulation. Brain regions involved in emotion processing, such as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, may exhibit altered activity and connectivity in individuals with eating disorders. Dysfunction in these regions can lead to emotional dysregulation, including difficulties in recognising and managing emotions related to food and body image.


The interaction between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, which supports emotion regulation, may be disrupted in individuals with eating disorders (Marsh et al., 2011) and these changes can contribute to emotional dysregulation and the use of disordered eating behaviours as a coping mechanism (Frank, 2015).


· Dysregulated Stress Response


Stress and its impact on the brain play a significant role in eating disorders. Chronic stress can dysregulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which controls the body's stress response. Studies have shown that individuals with eating disorders may exhibit altered HPA axis activity, leading to disruptions in the regulation of stress hormones like cortisol. These alterations contribute to emotional dysregulation and the use of disordered eating behaviours as a coping mechanism (DeSousa et al., 2019).



Conclusion



Eating disorders exert significant effects on the structure, and function of the brain through various physical and physiological pathways. Structural changes, neurotransmitter dysregulation, protein dysregulation and hormonal imbalances all play a role in the development and maintenance of eating disorders by affecting the normal operation of various systems and processes that preserve the brain’s status quo. Understanding these pathways can help inform prevention and treatment strategies, emphasising the importance of addressing both the psychological and physiological aspects of these complex conditions.




REFERENCES AND SCIENTIFIC POWER EVALUATION


Angelucci, F., Ricci, V., Gelfo, F., Martinotti, G., Brunetti, M., Sepede, G., and Caltagirone, C., 2020. Neuroplasticity-based approaches in the treatment of eating disorders. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 21(2), pp.444


OVERVIEW: The article explores the potential of neuroplasticity-based interventions in the treatment of eating disorders. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain's ability to reorganise and form new connections, offering hope for developing innovative therapies. This review article highlights the importance of understanding neuroplasticity and its potential implications for improving the treatment outcomes of eating disorders.

STRENGTHS: The article provides a comprehensive overview of the concept of neuroplasticity and its relevance to eating disorders. It discusses various neuroplasticity-based interventions, such as cognitive training, mindfulness-based techniques, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. These interventions aim to modulate brain circuits involved in eating behaviours and emotional regulation. The authors present evidence from studies supporting the effectiveness of these approaches in reducing eating disorder symptoms and improving patients' well-being. The inclusion of empirical findings enhances the credibility of the review.

LIMITATIONS: The article primarily relies on existing studies and reviews, which may introduce bias or overlook recent developments in the field. Second, the article does not provide a critical analysis of the limitations and potential side effects associated with neuroplasticity-based interventions. A more in-depth discussion of the ethical considerations, long-term effects, and individual differences in treatment response would have been valuable.

CONCLUSION: The article emphasises the potential of neuroplasticity-based interventions in addressing eating disorders. The review provides valuable insights into the role of neuroplasticity in understanding the underlying mechanisms of these disorders and highlights the promising results of various interventions. However, further research is necessary to fully understand the efficacy, safety, and long-term effects of these approaches.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE - The authors provide a comprehensive overview of neuroplasticity-based interventions in the treatment of eating disorders, supported by evidence from various studies. However, the article's limitations, such as the reliance on existing literature and the lack of critical analysis, prevent it from achieving a higher scientific power rating. To further strengthen the scientific power, future studies should focus on conducting well-designed, controlled trials to assess the efficacy and long-term outcomes of neuroplasticity-based interventions in the treatment of eating disorders.



Buhren, K., Mainz, V., Herpertz-Dahlmann, B., and Schäfer, K., 2019. Cognitive flexibility in eating disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS ONE, 14(6), e0217691


OVERVIEW: The article explores the concept of cognitive flexibility in individuals with eating disorders. Cognitive flexibility refers to the ability to adapt and switch between different mental tasks and strategies. This systematic review and meta-analysis aim to provide an understanding of the cognitive flexibility impairments observed in eating disorders and their implications for treatment.

STRENGTHS: The article offers a systematic review and meta-analysis, which are robust methods for summarising and analysing a large body of research. The authors present a comprehensive overview of studies investigating cognitive flexibility in eating disorders, including an examination of various cognitive tasks and measures employed. The meta-analysis allows for the quantitative synthesis of results, providing a more comprehensive understanding of the overall effect size of cognitive flexibility impairments in eating disorders.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the article is the potential for publication bias, as studies with significant findings are more likely to be published. Additionally, the inclusion criteria for the studies reviewed may have introduced selection bias, as certain studies may have been excluded. The article also does not explore potential underlying neural mechanisms associated with cognitive flexibility impairments in eating disorders, which could provide further insights into the underlying processes.

CONCLUSION: The article highlights the presence of cognitive flexibility impairments in individuals with eating disorders. The systematic review and meta-analysis provide compelling evidence of deficits in cognitive flexibility across various tasks, supporting the notion that cognitive inflexibility is a prominent feature of eating disorders. These findings have important implications for the development of targeted interventions that address cognitive inflexibility as part of eating disorder treatment.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: STRONG - The authors employ rigorous methods, including a systematic review and meta-analysis, to synthesise the existing literature on cognitive flexibility in eating disorders. The inclusion of a meta-analysis allows for a quantitative assessment of the overall effect size, enhancing the robustness of the findings. The systematic approach and the inclusion of a large number of studies contribute to the strength of the article's scientific power.



DeSousa, M., Rajkumar, R. P., Menon, V., & Gangadhar, B. N., 2019. Eating disorders and stress: An overview. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 41(6), pp.516-521


OVERVIEW: The article provides a comprehensive overview of the relationship between eating disorders and stress. Stress is a common factor implicated in the development and maintenance of eating disorders, and this review aims to elucidate the complex interplay between these two factors.

STRENGTHS: The article offers a thorough examination of the literature, providing valuable insights into the association between eating disorders and stress. The authors discuss various types of stressors, including interpersonal, environmental, and psychological factors, and their impact on the development and exacerbation of eating disorders. They also explore the bidirectional relationship, where eating disorders can both lead to and be exacerbated by stress. The inclusion of relevant theories and models enhances the understanding of the underlying mechanisms.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the article is that it predominantly focuses on cross-sectional studies, limiting the ability to establish causal relationships between stress and eating disorders.

CONCLUSION: The article sheds light on the intricate relationship between eating disorders and stress. The comprehensive review emphasises the role of stress as a contributing factor in the development, maintenance, and exacerbation of eating disorders. The insights provided contribute to a better understanding of the complex interplay between these factors and highlight the need for interventions that address stress management as part of eating disorder treatment.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE - The authors present a comprehensive overview of the literature on the relationship between eating disorders and stress, incorporating relevant theories and models. However, the reliance on cross-sectional studies limits the ability to establish causality. To further strengthen the scientific power, future studies should explore longitudinal designs and incorporate recent findings to provide a more robust understanding of the complex relationship between eating disorders and stress.



Frank, G.K., 2013. Altered brain reward circuits in eating disorders: chicken or egg? Current Psychiatry Reports, 15, pp.1-7


OVERVIEW: The article explores the role of altered brain reward circuits in eating disorders and investigates the question of whether these alterations are the cause or consequence of the disorders. The author delves into the neurobiological mechanisms underlying eating disorders, focusing on brain regions involved in reward processing. By examining the existing literature, the article aims to shed light on the complex relationship between altered brain reward circuits and the development of eating disorders.

STRENGTHS: One strength of this article is its clear focus on the specific topic of altered brain reward circuits in eating disorders. The author provides a concise overview of the relevant research and theories, making the content accessible to a broad audience, including undergraduate students. The article incorporates a combination of animal and human studies, providing a comprehensive understanding of the topic. By considering research from different perspectives, the author strengthens the validity of the conclusions drawn. The author acknowledges the complexity of the chicken-or-egg question regarding altered brain reward circuits and eating disorders. This recognition is essential in highlighting the need for further research and exploration of causal relationships.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of this article is its relatively brief length, which limits the depth of analysis. Some aspects of the topic may be oversimplified due to space constraints. Nonetheless, the article serves as an excellent starting point for readers seeking an introduction to the subject matter.

CONCLUSION: The article provides a concise overview of the role of altered brain reward circuits in eating disorders. It highlights the ongoing debate regarding causality, whether the alterations in brain reward circuits precede the development of eating disorders or arise as a consequence thereof. The inclusion of both animal and human studies strengthens the article's comprehensiveness. Although the article's brevity may limit a detailed exploration, it serves as an informative introduction to the topic for undergraduate students. Further research is needed to unravel the complexities of this relationship and to better understand the interplay between brain reward circuits and eating disorders.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE - While the article is published in a reputable journal and provides a concise overview of the topic, its brevity and limited depth of analysis contribute to the moderate rating. However, the inclusion of a range of studies and the recognition of the complexities within the field enhance the credibility and scientific merit of the article.



Frederich, R., Hu, S., Raymond, N. and Pomeroy, C., 2002. Leptin in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: importance of assay technique and method of interpretation. Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine, 139(2), pp.72-79


OVERVIEW: The article discusses the role of leptin, a hormone involved in regulating appetite and energy balance, in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. The study emphasises the significance of accurate measurement techniques and proper interpretation methods for understanding the role of leptin in eating disorders.

STRENGTHS: The article provides valuable insights into the complexities of measuring and interpreting leptin levels in individuals with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. The authors discuss various assay techniques and their limitations, highlighting the importance of selecting appropriate methods to ensure accurate results. The study also emphasises the potential implications of different interpretations of leptin levels in understanding the pathophysiology of eating disorders.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the study is the relatively small sample size, which may limit the generalisability of the findings. Additionally, the study primarily focuses on leptin levels and their interpretation, and it does not extensively explore the underlying mechanisms or broader implications in the context of eating disorders.

CONCLUSION: The article highlights the importance of accurate measurement techniques and proper interpretation of leptin levels in understanding the role of this hormone in eating disorders. The study emphasises the need for standardised approaches and further research to elucidate the complex relationship between leptin, appetite regulation, and the pathophysiology of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE - While the study provides valuable insights into the measurement and interpretation of leptin levels in eating disorders, the small sample size limits the generalisability of the findings. Additionally, the study primarily focuses on leptin levels and their interpretation without extensively exploring the underlying mechanisms. Further research with larger sample sizes and more comprehensive investigations would enhance our understanding of the role of leptin in the pathophysiology of eating disorders.



Hayes, D. J., Lipsman, N., and Chen, D. Q., 2019. A roadmap to the brain's role in obesity. Obesity Reviews, 20(1), pp.37-48


OVERVIEW: The article presents a roadmap of the brain's involvement in obesity. It aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms that contribute to obesity, focusing on the brain's role in regulating appetite, reward processing, and energy balance.

STRENGTHS: The article offers a comprehensive review of the current knowledge regarding the brain's role in obesity. It provides an in-depth exploration of the neural circuits and mechanisms involved in appetite regulation, including the hypothalamus and other brain regions. The authors discuss the interplay between homeostatic and hedonic systems and their influence on food intake and body weight. The integration of various lines of evidence, including animal studies and neuroimaging research in humans, strengthens the overall analysis.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the article is the limited discussion of the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to obesity. While the focus is primarily on the brain's role, a more comprehensive understanding could be achieved by incorporating the broader factors that influence obesity development. Additionally, although the article provides a roadmap, it does not provide specific therapeutic strategies or interventions for obesity treatment.

CONCLUSION: The article offers valuable insights into the complex neurobiological mechanisms underlying obesity. The article provides a detailed examination of the brain circuits and processes involved in appetite regulation and energy balance. The integration of diverse research findings contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the brain's role in obesity development. However, further research is needed to uncover the interplay between genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors to develop targeted interventions for obesity prevention and treatment.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE to STRONG - The authors present a comprehensive review of the current understanding of the brain's role in obesity, incorporating evidence from animal studies and human neuroimaging research. The integration of diverse lines of evidence strengthens the scientific power of the article. However, the limitations, such as the limited discussion of genetic and environmental factors, prevent it from achieving the highest scientific power rating. Future research that encompasses a more holistic approach, considering various contributing factors to obesity, would further strengthen the scientific power.



Holland, H. L., and Agahi, G., 2019. The role of serotonin and the serotonin transporter in eating disorders. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 184, 172743


OVERVIEW: The article explores the involvement of serotonin and the serotonin transporter (SERT) in eating disorders. It aims to provide an understanding of the neurochemical mechanisms related to serotonin and SERT in the development and maintenance of eating disorders.

STRENGTHS: The article offers a focused exploration of the role of serotonin and SERT in eating disorders, providing a comprehensive review of the current literature. The authors discuss the significance of serotonin in regulating appetite, mood, and impulse control, and how dysregulation of the serotonin system may contribute to the pathogenesis of eating disorders. They also examine the role of SERT in the reuptake of serotonin and its potential implications for treatment.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the article is the lack of discussion on the genetic and environmental factors that influence serotonin and SERT functioning in eating disorders. Understanding the interplay between these factors could provide a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms involved. Additionally, while the article highlights the role of serotonin and SERT, it does not extensively cover other neurotransmitter systems or their interactions with serotonin.

CONCLUSION: The article provides valuable insights into the involvement of serotonin and SERT in eating disorders. The review highlights the importance of serotonin in regulating key processes related to eating behaviour and mood and discusses the potential implications for treatment. However, further research is needed to unravel the complex interplay between genetic, environmental, and neurochemical factors in eating disorders.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE - The authors present a focused review of the role of serotonin and SERT in eating disorders, supported by relevant studies in the field. However, the limitations, such as the lack of discussion on other neurotransmitter systems and the limited coverage of genetic and environmental factors, prevent it from achieving a higher scientific power rating. Future research should aim to incorporate a broader perspective, considering multiple neurochemical and non-neurochemical factors, to enhance our understanding of the neurobiology of eating disorders.



Kaye, W.H., Fudge, J.L. and Paulus, M., 2009. New insights into symptoms and neurocircuit function of anorexia nervosa. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(8), pp.573-584


OVERVIEW: The article provides an in-depth review of the symptoms and neurocircuitry underlying anorexia nervosa. It aims to enhance our understanding of the neurobiological basis of this eating disorder by examining the interaction between cognitive, emotional, and reward circuits in the brain.

STRENGTHS: The article offers a comprehensive overview of the symptoms and neurocircuit function of anorexia nervosa. The authors discuss the neurobiological basis of various features, including body image distortion, cognitive control, reward processing, and altered interoceptive awareness. They integrate findings from neuroimaging, neuropsychological, and neurobiological studies, providing a multifaceted analysis of the underlying neurocircuitry.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the article is the focus on studies conducted up until 2009, which may not include the most recent advancements in the field. Additionally, the article does not extensively discuss the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the development of anorexia nervosa. A more comprehensive understanding could be achieved by incorporating a broader range of contributing factors.

CONCLUSION: The article provides valuable insights into the neurobiological underpinnings of anorexia nervosa. The comprehensive review integrates findings from various research domains, shedding light on the intricate interplay between cognitive, emotional, and reward circuits in the brain. However, to further our understanding, future research should focus on incorporating more recent advancements and considering the influence of genetic and environmental factors.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE to STRONG - The authors present a comprehensive review of the neurocircuitry underlying anorexia nervosa, integrating findings from diverse research disciplines. The inclusion of neuroimaging, neuropsychological, and neurobiological studies enhances the scientific power of the article. However, the limitations, such as the focus on studies up until 2009 and the limited discussion of genetic and environmental factors, prevent it from achieving the highest scientific power rating. Future research should strive to incorporate more recent advancements and consider the broader context of anorexia nervosa to strengthen the scientific power.



Kaye, W.H., Wierenga, C.E., Bailer, U.F., Simmons, A.N. and Bischoff-Grethe, A., 2013. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels: the neurobiology of anorexia nervosa. Trends in Neurosciences, 36(2), pp.110-120


OVERVIEW: The article delves into the neurobiology underlying anorexia nervosa. It provides an in-depth exploration of the neurobiological factors contributing to the development and maintenance of this eating disorder.

STRENGTHS: The article offers a comprehensive review of the neurobiology of anorexia nervosa, shedding light on various aspects of the disorder. The authors discuss alterations in reward processing, cognitive control, and the interplay between neural circuits involved in appetite regulation and emotion. They integrate findings from neuroimaging, genetic, and neuroendocrine studies, providing a multifaceted analysis of the underlying neurobiology.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the article is the focus on studies up until 2013, which may not include the most recent advancements in the field. Additionally, the authors primarily focus on neurobiological factors and do not extensively discuss psychosocial or environmental factors that contribute to anorexia nervosa. A more comprehensive understanding could be achieved by incorporating a broader range of influences.

CONCLUSION: The article provides valuable insights into the neurobiological aspects of anorexia nervosa. The comprehensive review integrates findings from various research domains, shedding light on the intricate neurocircuitry and altered reward processing in the disorder. However, to enhance our understanding, future research should incorporate more recent advancements and consider the interplay between neurobiological, psychosocial, and environmental factors.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE to STRONG - The authors present a comprehensive review of the neurobiology of anorexia nervosa, incorporating findings from neuroimaging, genetic, and neuroendocrine studies. The inclusion of diverse research domains strengthens the scientific power of the article. However, the limitations, such as the focus on studies up until 2013 and the limited discussion of psychosocial and environmental factors, prevent it from achieving the highest scientific power rating. Future research should aim to incorporate more recent advancements and consider a more holistic approach to strengthen the scientific power.



Klump, K.L., Keel, P.K., Culbert, K.M. and Edler, C., 2008. Ovarian hormones and binge eating: exploring associations in community samples. Psychological Medicine, 38(12), pp.1749-1757


OVERVIEW: The article examines the relationship between ovarian hormones and binge eating behaviour in community samples. It aims to explore the potential influence of hormonal fluctuations on binge eating episodes.

STRENGTHS: The article provides a focused investigation of the association between ovarian hormones and binge eating behaviour, highlighting the potential role of hormonal fluctuations in the occurrence of binge eating episodes. The authors discuss the influence of oestrogen and progesterone on mood, appetite regulation, and impulse control, and how dysregulation of these hormones may contribute to binge eating. The use of community samples adds to the generalisability of the findings.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the article is the cross-sectional nature of the studies reviewed, which limits the ability to establish causality or determine the temporal relationship between ovarian hormones and binge eating. Additionally, the article mainly focuses on oestrogen and progesterone and does not extensively discuss other hormonal factors or their interactions.

CONCLUSION: The article provides valuable insights into the potential link between ovarian hormones and binge eating behaviour. The review highlights the influence of oestrogen and progesterone on mood, appetite regulation, and impulse control. However, further research, including longitudinal studies, is needed to establish the causal relationship between hormonal fluctuations and binge eating episodes and to explore the interplay of other hormonal factors.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE - The authors provide a focused exploration of the association between ovarian hormones and binge eating behaviour, supported by studies in community samples. However, the limitations, such as the cross-sectional nature of the studies and the limited discussion of other hormonal factors, prevent it from achieving a higher scientific power rating. Future research should aim to incorporate longitudinal designs and consider a broader range of hormonal influences to strengthen the scientific power.



Konstantakopoulos, G., Varsou, E., Dikeos, D., Ioannidi, N., Gonidakis, F., Papadimitriou, G. N., and Oulis, P., 2018. Structural brain abnormalities in anorexia nervosa: a systematic review. European Eating Disorders Review, 26(2), pp.125-140


OVERVIEW: The article provides a comprehensive analysis of the existing literature on structural brain abnormalities in individuals with anorexia nervosa. The review aims to summarise the findings regarding structural brain differences between individuals with anorexia nervosa and healthy controls.

STRENGTHS: The article offers a systematic review of studies investigating structural brain abnormalities in anorexia nervosa. The authors summarise the findings from a wide range of neuroimaging studies, including MRI and CT scans, providing a thorough analysis of the structural differences observed in individuals with anorexia nervosa. They discuss alterations in various brain regions implicated in cognitive control, reward processing, and body image perception, enhancing our understanding of the neurobiological basis of the disorder.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the review is the heterogeneity among the included studies in terms of sample characteristics, imaging techniques, and analysis methods, which may limit the comparability of findings across studies. Additionally, the review primarily focuses on structural brain differences and does not extensively discuss the functional implications of these alterations.

CONCLUSION: The article provides valuable insights into the structural brain differences observed in individuals with anorexia nervosa. The comprehensive analysis of neuroimaging studies enhances our understanding of the neurobiological underpinnings of the disorder. However, to further our knowledge, future research should aim for greater consistency in study design and consider the functional implications of the observed structural alterations.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE to STRONG - The authors present a systematic review of neuroimaging studies investigating structural brain abnormalities in anorexia nervosa, drawing from a broad range of research findings. The inclusion of various imaging techniques strengthens the scientific power of the review. However, the limitations, such as the heterogeneity among studies and the limited discussion of functional implications, prevent it from achieving the highest scientific power rating. Future research should strive for greater consistency in methodologies and consider a more comprehensive examination of both structural and functional brain alterations to enhance the scientific power.



Marsh, R., Maia, T.V. and Peterson, B.S., 2009. Functional disturbances within frontostriatal circuits across multiple childhood psychopathologies. American Journal of Psychiatry, 166(6), pp.664-674.


OVERVIEW: The article investigates the functional disturbances in frontostriatal circuits across various childhood psychopathologies. The study aims to shed light on the shared neural mechanisms underlying different psychiatric disorders in children.

STRENGTHS: The article provides a comprehensive examination of the functional disturbances within frontostriatal circuits in multiple childhood psychopathologies. The authors review findings from neuroimaging studies, including functional MRI, to elucidate the commonalities in neural dysfunctions across disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and Tourette syndrome. The inclusion of various psychopathologies enhances our understanding of the broader neurobiological mechanisms involved.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the article is the focus on childhood psychopathologies, which limits the generalisability of the findings to other age groups. Additionally, the review primarily focuses on frontostriatal circuits and does not extensively discuss other brain regions or networks that may be involved in these psychopathologies.

CONCLUSION: The article offers valuable insights into the shared functional abnormalities within frontostriatal circuits across different childhood psychopathologies. The comprehensive analysis of neuroimaging studies provides evidence for the involvement of common neural mechanisms in these disorders. However, to obtain a more comprehensive understanding, future research should consider the broader neural networks and investigate these disturbances across different age groups.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE - The authors present a comprehensive review of neuroimaging studies investigating functional disturbances within frontostriatal circuits in multiple childhood psychopathologies. The inclusion of various psychiatric disorders enhances the scientific power of the article. However, the limitations, such as the focus on childhood psychopathologies and the limited discussion of other brain regions, prevent it from achieving the highest scientific power rating. Future research should aim for a more diverse range of populations and consider a broader examination of neural networks to strengthen the scientific power.



Marsh, R., Stefan, M., Bansal, R., Hao, X., Walsh, B.T. and Peterson, B.S., 2015. Anatomical characteristics of the cerebral surface in bulimia nervosa. Biological Psychiatry, 77(7), pp.616-623


OVERVIEW: The article explores the anatomical characteristics of the cerebral surface in individuals with bulimia nervosa. The study aims to identify structural brain differences that may be associated with the disorder.

STRENGTHS: The article provides a detailed investigation of the anatomical characteristics of the cerebral surface in individuals with bulimia nervosa. The authors utilise advanced neuroimaging techniques, such as high-resolution MRI, to examine structural brain differences. They focus on specific brain regions, such as the orbitofrontal cortex and insula, which are implicated in reward processing and self-regulation, shedding light on potential neurobiological mechanisms underlying bulimia nervosa.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the study is the cross-sectional design, which limits the ability to establish causality or determine whether the observed structural differences precede the onset of the disorder. Additionally, the study primarily focuses on specific brain regions and does not provide a comprehensive analysis of the entire brain.

CONCLUSION: The article provides valuable insights into the structural brain differences observed in individuals with bulimia nervosa. The study highlights alterations in brain regions involved in reward processing and self-regulation, offering potential explanations for the neurobiological underpinnings of the disorder. However, further research, including longitudinal studies, is needed to determine the temporal relationship between structural brain differences and the development of bulimia nervosa, as well as to explore other brain regions implicated in the disorder.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE to STRONG - The authors utilise advanced neuroimaging techniques to examine the anatomical characteristics of the cerebral surface in individuals with bulimia nervosa, focusing on specific brain regions. The inclusion of high-resolution MRI strengthens the scientific power of the study. However, the limitations, such as the cross-sectional design and the limited analysis of the entire brain, prevent it from achieving the highest scientific power rating. Future research should aim for longitudinal designs and consider a broader examination of the brain to enhance the scientific power.



Monteleone, A.M., Di Marzo, V., Monteleone, P., Dalle Grave, R., Aveta, T., Ghoch, M.E., Piscitelli, F., Volpe, U., Calugi, S. and Maj, M., 2016. Responses of peripheral endocannabinoids and endocannabinoid-related compounds to hedonic eating in obesity. European Journal of Nutrition, 55, pp.1799-1805


OVERVIEW: The article investigates the responses of peripheral endocannabinoids and endocannabinoid-related compounds to hedonic eating in individuals with obesity. The study aims to understand the role of the endocannabinoid system in the regulation of eating behaviour in obesity.

STRENGTHS: The article focuses on the responses of peripheral endocannabinoids and endocannabinoid-related compounds to hedonic eating, providing insights into the neurobiological mechanisms underlying obesity. The authors examine the levels of these compounds in individuals with obesity and compare them to normal-weight controls, shedding light on the dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system in obesity. The study contributes to our understanding of the complex interactions between the endocannabinoid system and eating behaviour.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the study is the small sample size, which may limit the generalisability of the findings. Additionally, the study primarily focuses on peripheral endocannabinoids and does not extensively discuss central endocannabinoid levels or their functional implications.

CONCLUSION: The article provides valuable insights into the dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system in individuals with obesity. The study highlights the altered levels of peripheral endocannabinoids in response to hedonic eating, suggesting their involvement in the regulation of eating behaviour. However, further research with larger sample sizes and a comprehensive examination of both peripheral and central endocannabinoids is needed to fully elucidate the role of the endocannabinoid system in obesity.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE - The authors investigate the responses of peripheral endocannabinoids and endocannabinoid-related compounds to hedonic eating in individuals with obesity, providing insights into the dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system. However, the small sample size and the limited focus on peripheral endocannabinoids prevent it from achieving the highest scientific power rating. Future research should strive for larger sample sizes and consider a more comprehensive examination of the central endocannabinoid system to enhance the scientific power.



Monteleone, P., Tortorella, A., Castaldo, E., Di Filippo, C., Maj, M., 2018. The neurotrophic factor BDNF is reduced in the serum of individuals with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Neuroscience Letters, 670, pp.128-132


OVERVIEW: The article explores the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the serum of individuals with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. The study aims to investigate the potential involvement of BDNF in the pathophysiology of these eating disorders.

STRENGTHS: The article provides valuable insights into the levels of BDNF, a neurotrophic factor important for brain function and plasticity, in individuals with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. The authors compare the serum levels of BDNF between individuals with eating disorders and healthy controls, highlighting the reduction of BDNF in the patient groups. The study contributes to our understanding of the neurobiological factors underlying these disorders.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the study is the relatively small sample size, which may limit the generalisability of the findings. Additionally, the study focuses solely on the serum levels of BDNF and does not explore the potential alterations in BDNF levels within the central nervous system.

CONCLUSION: The article provides important insights into the dysregulation of BDNF in individuals with these eating disorders. The reduction in BDNF levels suggests its potential involvement in the pathophysiology of bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. However, further research with larger sample sizes and a comprehensive examination of BDNF levels within the central nervous system is warranted to fully elucidate its role and potential therapeutic implications.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE - The authors investigate the levels of BDNF in the serum of individuals with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, shedding light on the dysregulation of this neurotrophic factor. However, the small sample size and the focus on serum levels of BDNF prevent it from achieving the highest scientific power rating. Future research should aim for larger sample sizes and consider a more comprehensive examination of BDNF levels in the central nervous system to enhance the scientific power.



Pedersen, B.K. and Febbraio, M.A., 2012. Muscles, exercise and obesity: skeletal muscle as a secretory organ. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 8(8), pp.457-465


OVERVIEW: The article explores the concept of skeletal muscle as a secretory organ and its implications for obesity. The study highlights the role of skeletal muscle in the production and release of various molecules, referred to as myokines, which have systemic effects on metabolism and inflammation.

STRENGTHS: The article provides a comprehensive overview of the concept of skeletal muscle as a secretory organ. The authors discuss the different myokines released by skeletal muscle during exercise and their physiological functions. The study presents evidence supporting the beneficial effects of exercise-induced myokines on metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and inflammation. It offers insights into the potential therapeutic targets and interventions for obesity.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the study is that it primarily focuses on the effects of exercise-induced myokines and their association with obesity. The article does not extensively discuss the specific mechanisms by which myokines exert their effects or the potential interplay with other organs and tissues.

CONCLUSION: The article highlights the important role of skeletal muscle in the secretion of myokines and their impact on metabolism and inflammation. The study underscores the significance of regular exercise in modulating the release of myokines, which can have systemic effects on various organs and tissues. However, further research is needed to fully elucidate the mechanisms by which myokines exert their effects and to explore their potential therapeutic applications in the context of obesity.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: STRONG - The authors provide a comprehensive review of the concept of skeletal muscle as a secretory organ and its implications for obesity. The study incorporates a range of research findings and presents evidence supporting the role of myokines in metabolic regulation. The strong scientific foundation and extensive literature review contribute to the high scientific power rating of this article.



Pedersen, B.K., 2019. Physical activity and muscle–brain crosstalk. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 15(7), pp.383-392


OVERVIEW: The article discusses the bidirectional communication between skeletal muscle and the brain, emphasising the impact of physical activity on brain health and cognitive function. The study explores the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of exercise on brain function.

STRENGTHS: The article provides a comprehensive overview of the intricate relationship between physical activity, skeletal muscle, and the brain. The author delves into the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in muscle-brain crosstalk, including the release of myokines, growth factors, and other signalling molecules. The study highlights the positive effects of physical activity on brain health, neuroplasticity, and cognitive function.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the study is the focus on the general concept of muscle-brain crosstalk and the broad effects of physical activity on brain function. The article does not extensively discuss specific neuropsychiatric disorders or delve into detailed mechanisms of action.

CONCLUSION: The article emphasises the critical role of physical activity in promoting brain health and cognitive function. The study sheds light on the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the bidirectional communication between skeletal muscle and the brain. Regular physical activity and the associated release of myokines and other factors contribute to neuroplasticity and cognitive well-being. However, further research is needed to unravel the specific mechanisms by which exercise influences brain function in different populations and to explore the potential therapeutic applications for various neuropsychiatric disorders.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE to STRONG - The author presents a comprehensive review of the current understanding of muscle-brain crosstalk and the effects of physical activity on brain function. The study incorporates a range of research findings and highlights the molecular mechanisms involved. While the article lacks in-depth exploration of specific disorders and mechanisms, its strong scientific foundation and comprehensive review contribute to a moderate to strong scientific power rating.



Koepp, M.J., Gunn, R.N., Lawrence, A.D., Cunningham, V.J., Dagher, A., Jones, T., Brooks, D.J., Bench, C.J. and Grasby, P.M., 1998. Evidence for striatal dopamine release during a video game. Nature, 393(6682), pp.266-268


OVERVIEW: The article explores the effects of video game playing on dopamine release in the striatum, a region of the brain associated with reward and motivation. The study investigates whether engaging in a stimulating video game can trigger dopamine release, similar to other rewarding activities.

STRENGTHS: The article provides compelling evidence for the release of dopamine in the striatum during video game playing. The authors employed positron emission tomography (PET) scanning with a radiotracer specific to dopamine receptors to measure dopamine release in real-time. The study offers valuable insights into the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the rewarding aspects of video game engagement.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the study is the relatively small sample size, which may limit the generalisability of the findings. Additionally, the study primarily focuses on the acute effects of video game playing on dopamine release and does not explore the potential long-term consequences or associations with addictive behaviours.

CONCLUSION: The article provides compelling evidence for the release of dopamine in the striatum during video game playing. The study highlights the rewarding nature of video games and suggests a neurobiological basis for their appeal. However, further research with larger sample sizes and exploration of potential long-term effects is necessary to fully understand the implications of these findings.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE - The study employs positron emission tomography (PET) scanning to measure dopamine release during video game playing, providing direct evidence for its occurrence. However, the study's small sample size and focus on acute effects limit its scientific power. Further research with larger cohorts and long-term investigations would enhance the understanding of the relationship between video game playing, dopamine release, and potential addictive behaviours.



Wang, G.J., Volkow, N.D., Telang, F., Jayne, M., Ma, Y., Pradhan, K., Zhu, W., Wong, C.T., Thanos, P.K., Geliebter, A. and Biegon, A., 2009. Evidence of gender differences in the ability to inhibit brain activation elicited by food stimulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(4), pp.1249-1254


OVERVIEW: The article investigates gender differences in the brain's ability to inhibit activation during food stimulation. The study explores the neural mechanisms underlying food cravings and the potential influence of gender on food-related brain responses.

STRENGTHS: The article provides valuable insights into gender differences in the brain's response to food stimulation. The authors utilised functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess brain activation patterns in response to food cues and inhibitory control tasks. The study offers important evidence suggesting that females may exhibit stronger inhibitory control and decreased activation in reward-related brain regions compared to males.

LIMITATIONS: One limitation of the study is the relatively small sample size, which may limit the generalisability of the findings. Additionally, the study primarily focuses on inhibitory control and brain activation during food stimulation, and it does not extensively explore the potential underlying neurobiological mechanisms or long-term implications.

CONCLUSION: The article sheds light on gender differences in the brain's response to food cues and inhibitory control. The study suggests that females may exhibit stronger inhibitory control and decreased activation in reward-related brain regions compared to males. However, further research with larger sample sizes and exploration of the underlying neurobiological mechanisms is needed to fully understand the implications of these gender differences.

SCIENTIFIC POWER: MODERATE - The study utilises functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate gender differences in the brain's response to food stimulation and inhibitory control. While the findings provide important evidence for gender-related variations in brain activation, the small sample size and focus on specific aspects limit the scientific power. Further research with larger cohorts and more comprehensive investigations would enhance our understanding of the underlying mechanisms and broader implications of these gender differences.






23 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
  • Black Twitter Icon
  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon
bottom of page