Eating Disorders

Neurobiology of Anorexia Nervosa
Neurobiologische Grundlagen der Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is a common mental disorder in girls and young women. AN leads to severe medical complications and an increased mortality rate. Due to interruptions of somatic and psychological development processes in the course of this disease, the patients often suffer from long lasting negative consequences.

Previous studies in human subjects and animals have shown alterations in several neurotransmitter systems and neuropeptides, possibly induced by undernourishment and underweight. There is still little knowledge about the biological mechanism that promote the occurrence of this disorder. One possibility to differentiate “state”-markers (caused by underweight) from the more stable “trait” markers is the examination of patients with AN at different stages of the disorder (e.g. acute phase, symptomatic phase and after successful treatment).

In close collaboration with the Department for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy our group is studying alternations in the serotonergic system, of appetite regulating peptides and neurotrophic proteins as well as genetic associations. Additionally, neural correlates of important AN-involved psychological processes will be analyzed by magnetic resonance imaging methods. In this context we are especially interested in processes of reward, learning, cognitive control and regulation of emotions.


The MRI data are analyzed using the following software packages and/or pipelines which are all freely available:
  • SPM (Statistical Parametric Mapping, http://www.fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk/spm/)
  • FSL (FMRIB Software Library, http://www.fmrib.ox.ac.uk/) 
  • FreeSurfer including TRACULA (FreeSurfer Software Suite, http://surfer.nmr.mgh.harvard.edu/)
  • Nypipe (Neuroimaging in Python Pipelines and Interfaces, http://nipy.org/nipype/)


Contact persons: 
  • Prof. Dr. med. PhD S. Ehr­lich, Dipl.-Inf. D. Geis­ler, Dr. F. Bernardoni, Dr. I. Böhm, Dr. M. Seidel, Dr. J. King


Collaborators: