By Olivia Kline, EDC Administrative Assistant
In the mental health field, there is ongoing research to address the gap between mental health disorders and the brain, in hopes that it will create improved and more effective treatment methods. These types of discoveries take a lot of time, effort, and innovation – I learned this first hand when I worked at the National Institutes of Health as a research fellow.
Through this experience, I performed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on brains of participants in our studies. The overall goals for our studies were to understand the underlying brain mechanisms of neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders. Within this role, I utilized my lab's data to take on my own research projects. This created a strong interest of mine in learning about the relationship between the brain and mental health disorders.
Fast forward to today, I landed an incredible position as an Administrative Assistant at the Eating Disorder Center. Within a few months of working here, I became curious about the relationship between eating disorders and the brain, specifically during eating disorder recovery.
Over the years, research explains that eating disorder recovery improves brain function and structure. For instance, Wagner et. al (2006) conducted a study investigating cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) volumes as well as gray and white matter volume in individuals who were at least one year recovered from anorexia or bulimia nervosa. CSF helps protect the brain and helps us reach homeostasis by regulating the temperature and nutrition of our Central Nervous System. Gray matter in the brain helps us process sensory information, motor movements, speech and cognition. White matter is responsible for providing communication between these essential gray matter areas. This study discovered that those recovered had similar CSF as well as gray and white matter volumes to the control group. Since those who are struggling from these disorders often have irregular CSF and gray/white matter volumes, this study suggests that during recovery these parts of your brain can also recover.
In a more recent study, Seitz et al. (2014) analyzed how the length of time in recovery from anorexia relates to improved brain function. They discovered that within 2 to 5 months of recovery, about half of the brain’s gray matter volumes and almost all white matter volume were back to typical volumes. Additionally, in more long term recovery (2 to 8 years) white and gray matter volumes in individuals recovered from anorexia were not significantly different than volumes in those without an eating disorder. In other words, in long term recovery, the brain is able to return back to typical structure and function.
While there are definitely more unanswered questions about the brain and eating disorder recovery, I wanted to share some of these findings to show how resilient our brains and bodies are, even after struggling from a mental health disorder. These studies show how during and after eating disorder recovery, the brain recovers too. Evidence-based treatments provide us with tools and skills to recover from eating disorders and can ultimately restore brain structure and function, according to this research.
The Eating Disorder Center can help you start your recovery journey or support you through recovery! We have therapists that can help in MD, DC, VA, NY & FL, as well as coaches worldwide that can assist you with food and body image concerns.
Wagner, A., Greer, P., Bailer, U.F., Frank, G.K., Henry, S.E., Putman, K., Meltzer, C.C., Ziolko, S.K., Hoge,
J. McConaha, C., & Kayna, W.H. (2006). Normal brain tissue volumes after long-term recovery in anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Biological Psychiatry, 59(3), 291-293. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2005.06.014
Seitz, J., Bühren, K., von Polier, G. G., Heussen, N., Herpertz-Dahlmann, B., & Konrad, K. (2014). Morphological changes in the brain of acutely ill and weight-recovered patients with anorexia nervosa. A meta-analysis and qualitative review. Zeitschrift fur Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie und Psychotherapie, 42(1), 7–18. https://doi.org/10.1024/1422-4917/a000265
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The Eating Disorder Center is a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center founded by Jennifer Rollin. We specialize in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia, OSFED, and body image issues. We provide eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Silver Spring, Germantown, and Washington D.C. We also provide eating disorder therapy in Arlington, Virginia and virtually throughout Virginia. Additionally, we offer eating disorder therapy virtually in New York (NYC), Florida, and California. We provide eating disorder recovery coaching via Zoom to people worldwide. Connect with us through our website at www.theeatingdisordercenter.com
The Eating Disorder Center
We are a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland.