, Volume 54, Issue 7, pp 753–764 | Cite as

Metabolic gray matter changes of adolescents with anorexia nervosa in combined MR proton and phosphorus spectroscopy

  • Stella BlaselEmail author
  • Ulrich Pilatus
  • Joerg Magerkurth
  • Maya von Stauffenberg
  • Dmitri Vronski
  • Manuel Mueller
  • Lars Woeckel
  • Elke Hattingen
Paediatric Neuroradiology



There are hints for changes in phospholipid membrane metabolism and structure in the brain of adolescents with anorexia nervosa (AN) using either proton (1H) or phosphorus (31P) magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI). We aimed to specify these pathological metabolite changes by combining both methods with additional focus on the neuronal metabolites glutamate (Glu) and N-acetyl-l-aspartate (NAA).


Twenty-one female patients (mean 14.4 ± 1.9 years) and 29 female controls (mean 16 ± 1.6 years) underwent 1H and 31P MRSI at 3 T applied to the centrum semiovale including the anterior cingulate cortex. We assessed gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) metabolite concentration changes of the frontal and parietal brain measuring choline(Cho)- and ethanolamine(Eth)-containing compounds, Glutamate (Glu) and glutamine (Gln) and their sum (Glx), myoinositol, NAA, and high-energy phosphates.


For 1H MRSI, a clear discrimination between GM and WM concentrations was possible, showing an increase of Glx (p < 0.001), NAA (frontal p < 0.05), pooled creatine (tCr) (p < 0.001), and choline (tCho) (p < 0.05) in the GM of AN patients. The lipid catabolites glycerophosphocholine (p < 0.07) and glycerophosphoethanolamine (p < 0.03) were increased in the parietal region.


Significant changes in GM metabolite concentrations were observed in AN possibly triggered by elevated excitotoxin Glu. Increased tCho may indicate modifications of membrane phospholipids due to increased catabolism in the parietal region. Since no significant changes in phosphorylated choline compounds were found for the frontal region, the tCho increase in this region may hint to fluidity changes.


Anorexia nervosa Gray matter Membrane phospholipids MR spectroscopy Phosphorus 


Conflict of interest

We declare that we have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stella Blasel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ulrich Pilatus
    • 1
  • Joerg Magerkurth
    • 1
  • Maya von Stauffenberg
    • 2
  • Dmitri Vronski
    • 1
  • Manuel Mueller
    • 1
  • Lars Woeckel
    • 3
  • Elke Hattingen
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of NeuroradiologyUniversity of FrankfurtFrankfurtGermany
  2. 2.Department of Psychosomatic MedicineClementine Children Hospital FrankfurtFrankfurtGermany
  3. 3.Clinic for Psychiatry and PsychotherapyClienia Littenheid AGLittenheidSwitzerland

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