Science & Technology

Contrary to theory, bulimia is not caused by stress-induced impulsivity

Stress alters the brain activity of the inhibitory network, but contrary to theory, it does not promote bulimia.

Stress alters brain activity in self-restraining areas, but does not cause bulimia, according to a new study published in JNeurosci..

People with bulimia, a characteristic symptom of some eating disorders, are often out of control, unstoppable, and bulimia after stressful events. This causes scientists to theorize stress, damaging the areas of the brain involved in suppressive control (the ability to stop what they are trying to do or what they are doing), causing bulimia nervosa.

Binge eating is not caused by stress-induced impulsivity

Preventive inhibition of bulimia nervosa is associated with increased superior frontal gyrus activity. Credit: Westwater et al. , J Neurosci 2021

Westwater et al. This theory was tested using fMRI to measure brain activity when women without anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or eating disorders completed suppressive control tasks under stress or relaxation. In this task, I pressed a button and stopped the bar that moved when I reached a certain point on the screen. In some exams, the bar stopped early and participants had to avoid pressing buttons. Stress altered brain activity associated with suppressive control in both groups of women with eating disorders, but did not affect task performance. That is, they still had the ability to stop. The actual mechanism behind bulimia is more complex than previously thought, as these results indicate that self-restraint is maintained in the face of stress.

For more information on this study Contrary to theory, stress does not lead to loss of self-control in eating disorders..

Reference: “The prefrontal cortex response during active and reactive inhibition is affected differently by the stress of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa” by Margaret L. Westwater. [MPhil], Flavia Mancini [PhD], Adam X. Gorka [PhD], Jane Shapleske [MD], Jaco Serfontein [MD], Christian Grillon [PhD], Monique Ernst [MD, PhD], Hisham Ziauddeen [MRCPsych, PhD] And Paul C. Fletcher [MRCPsych, PhD], April 12, 2021 Journal of Neuroscience..
DOI: 10.1523 / JNEUROSCI.2853-20.2021

Contrary to theory, bulimia is not caused by stress-induced impulsivity Contrary to theory, bulimia is not caused by stress-induced impulsivity

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