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Anorexia nervosa brain changes are studied

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PITTSBURGH, Sep 07, 2005 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Women suffering a certain type of anorexia nervosa show an alteration of brain serotonin, a chemical associated with anxiety and other affective disorders.

Anorexia nervosa -- characterized by the relentless pursuit of thinness and obsessive fear of being fat -- has two subtypes, a group that restricts eating and a group that alternates restrictive eating with bulimic symptoms, such as episodes of purging and/or binge eating.

Dr. Ursula Bailer of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and colleagues compared the activity of serotonin in women who recovered from each of the two types of anorexia nervosa and a control group of healthy women.

The researchers found increased binding of serotonin in several brain regions in women who had recovered from bulimia-type AN, but not restricting-type AN.

"In summary, this study lends further credibility to the possibility that women with AN have a persistent disturbance of (serotonin) neuronal systems that may be related to increased anxiety," the authors concluded.

The data, Bailer said, offer the promise of a new understanding of the pathogenesis of AN and new drug and psychological treatment targets.

The study appears in the September issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International.

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