Response in Taste Circuitry is not Modulated by Hunger and Satiety in Women Remitted From Bulimia Nervosa

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Individuals with bulimia nervosa (BN) engage in episodes of binge eating, marked by loss of control and eating despite fullness. Does altered reward and metabolic state contribute to BN pathophysiology? Normally, hunger increases (and satiety decreases) reward salience to regulate eating. We investigated whether BN is associated with an abnormal response in a neural circuit involved in translating taste signals into motivated behavior, when hungry and fed. Twenty-six women remitted from BN (RBN) and 22 control women (CW) were administered water and sucrose during 2 counterbalanced fMRI visits, following a 16-hr fast or a standardized breakfast. Significant Group × Condition interactions were found in the left putamen, insula, and amygdala. Post hoc analyses revealed CW were significantly more responsive to taste stimuli when hungry versus fed in the left putamen and amygdala. In contrast, RBN response did not differ between conditions. Further, RBN had greater activation in the left amygdala compared with CW when fed. Findings suggest that RBN neural response to rewarding stimuli may not be modulated by metabolic state. Data raise the possibility that disinhibited eating in BN could result from a failure to devalue food reward when fed, resulting in an exaggerated response.

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