Let’s continue our discussion of the neuroscience of anorexia in part 2 of From Noise to Nutrition.
You may have noticed that the sense of panic, tension and anxiety associated with food, as as referenced in From Noise to Nutrition: Part 1, grows as starvation continues or as re-feeding begins for individuals in treatment for anorexia. We will continue to explain this phenomenon by traveling further down the brain pathway discussed in From Noise to Nutrition: Part 1.
The Association of Food and Discomfort
As the “panic” neurochemical message travels from the amygdala to the nucleus accumbens or the “Pleasure Station,” no pleasure is registered. Once again, the brain is associating food with discomfort. It is now the job of the “Decision Making Station” or the orbital frontal cortex to try its best to make sense of the messages coming from the feeling stations. As the sensations of taste, hunger and pleasure are giving weak signals, and the panic station is getting louder, the brain formulates rules in response to these signals. The correlation between food and discomfort is now confirmed in the mind. Food avoidance is correlated with increased comfort and ingestion equates discomfort. These thoughts become less and less flexible as starving increases, forming a negative feedback loop.
According to Dr. Laurie McCormick at the University of Iowa, obsessive thoughts reinforce themselves and the frontal cortex weakens, limiting one’s ability to make decisions. These findings have confirmed that interventions must be straight-forward and consistent to ensure that the client is required to make as few decisions as possible, as the capacity for decision making is compromised.
Luckily, brains are malleable and atrophied brain stations can work hard to repair themselves. Dr. McCormick’s research found that the Anterior Dorsal did normalize after weight restoration. What does this mean for intervention? While the brain may initially fight against it, lines can be laid in the brain, over and over until new thoughts and behaviors are established. This information gives hope that with adeuate meal plans., participation in predictable activities, and the reinforcement of healthy rituals, we can literally rewire pathways and restore malfunctioning brain waves to permanently quiet the “noise.”
At Columbus Park, our interventions are aligned with brain-based research. One of the treatments we offer to help silence the “noise” in our patients’ neural pathways, is supported meals.. For as many meals per week as possible, our patients eat on-site in a group setting. We find that the stimulation of a group interaction is just one method through which we can distract from the sounds and provide real-time support. We achieve success in our weight restoration and meal support program as a result of our highly focused and consistent interventions. Our programs are proven and effective treatments.
For more information head to www.columbuspark.com
Hill, L., PdhD, Dagg, D., MA, Levine, M., PhD, & Smolack, L., PhD. (2012). Family Eating Disorders Manuel (Vol. 1). CT: The Center for Balanced Living.