Altered anticipation and processing of aversive interoceptive experience among women remitted from bulimia nervosa.
About this resource
Bulimia nervosa (BN) is characterized by dysregulated intake of food, which may indicate homeostatic imbalance. Critically important for homeostatic regulation is interoception, or the sensing and processing of body-relevant information. A well-documented link between avoidance of unpleasant body sensations and BN symptoms suggests that aversive interoceptive experiences may be particularly relevant to BN pathophysiology. This study examined whether individuals with a history of BN show aberrant neural processing of aversive interoceptive stimuli. Using a cued inspiratory breathing load paradigm, we compared women remitted from BN (RBN; n = 24; to reduce the confounding effects of active bulimic symptoms) and control women (CW; n = 25). During breathing load anticipation, the RBN group, relative to CW, showed increased activation in mid-insula, superior frontal gyrus, putamen, dorsal anterior cingulate, posterior cingulate, and amygdala. However, over the course of the aversive experience, neural activation in RBN relative to CW showed an aberrant decline in most of these regions. Exploratory analyses indicated that greater activation during breathing load anticipation was associated with past bulimic symptom severity and the duration of symptom remission. An exaggerated anticipatory response and an abnormally decreasing response during aversive homeostatic perturbations may promote hallmark bulimic behaviors-binge eating, dietary restriction, and purging. Our findings support a role for homeostatic instability in BN, and these altered patterns of brain activation may serve as novel targets for pharmacological, neuromodulatory, and behavioral interventions.
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