Starving the brain: structural abnormalities and cognitive impairment in adolescents with anorexia nervosa
Anorexia nervosa (AN) is one of the most common chronic illnesses afflicting adolescent girls and is associated severe medical complications. The structural abnormalities found in the brain of adolescents with AN are among the earliest and most striking physical consequences. In the past, it had been assumed that the brain abnormalities found in patients with AN reverse with weight-recovery. Recent evidence has shown that not all of these changes are completely reversible with weight recovery. To date, very little is known about the functional significance of these brain abnormalities. Several studies have shown that cognitive dysfunction is also a common feature of AN. Although current evidence suggests that there may be some degree of improvement in cognition with weight-recovery, it is unclear whether cognition recovers fully or equally across all neuropsychological domains. Furthermore, it remains unknown whether the reported functional consequences are associated with these structural brain changes. This article will review the current literature on structural brain abnormalities and cognitive dysfunction in adolescents with AN.