, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 171-212

Is anorexia nervosa a neuropsychological disease?

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Evidence for central nervous system, and more particularly cortical, etiology of anorexia nervosa is reviewed. Topics covered are neuropsychiatric comorbidity, inheritance patterns, the neurobiology of body-image disturbance and of the eating function, perinatal and alcoholic insult to the brain, neurochemical and neuroelectric disturbance, anatomic and metabolic brain imaging, and neuropsychological impairment. It is concluded that there is indeed an important neuropsychological etiological dimension to anorexia nervosa. The profile most frequently associated with anorexia nervosa is right posterior hypometabolism, followed by right anterior hypermetabolism, both associated with right-sided abnormal electroencephalogram spiking. It is also proposed that bulimia consists of a “positive” neurological subtype and that restricting anorexia represents a “negative” neurological subtype. Priorities for further research into anorexia nervosa are specified to include twin adoption studies, brain electrical topography studies, postmortem histological studies, and experimentally inspired neuropsychological studies.