An fMRI investigation of the fronto-striatal learning system in women who exhibit eating disorder behaviors


In the present study, we sought to examine whether the fronto-striatal learning system, which has been implicated in bulimia nervosa, would demonstrate altered BOLD activity during probabilistic category learning in women who met subthreshold criteria for bulimia nervosa (Sub-BN). Sub-BN, which falls within the clinical category of Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS), is comprised of individuals who demonstrate recurrent binge eating, efforts to minimize their caloric intake and caloric retention, and elevated levels of concern about shape, weight, and/or eating, but just fail to meet the diagnostic threshold for bulimia nervosa (BN). fMRI data were collected from eighteen women with subthreshold-BN (Sub-BN) and nineteen healthy control women group-matched for age, education and body mass index (MC) during the weather prediction task. Sub-BN participants demonstrated increased caudate nucleus and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex(DLPFC) activation during the learning of probabilistic categories. Though the two subject groups did not differ in behavioral performance, over the course of learning, Sub-BN participants showed a dynamic pattern of brain activity differences when compared to matched control participants. Regions implicated in episodic memory, including themedial temporal lobe (MTL), retrosplenial cortex, middle frontal gyrus, and anterior andposterior cingulate cortex showed decreased activity in the Sub-BN participants compared to MCs during early learning which was followed by increased involvement of the DLPFC during later learning. These findings demonstrate that women with Sub-BN demonstrate differences in fronto-striatal learning system activity, as well as a distinct functional pattern between fronto-striatal and MTL learning systems during the course of implicit probabilistic category learning.



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