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Disgust and disgust sensitivity in bulimia nervosa: An fMRI study

by Anne Schienle, Rudolf Stark, Axel Schäfer, Bertram Walter, Peter Kirsch, Dieter Vaitl
European Eating Disorders Review ()
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This study attempted to demonstrate an elevated disgust sensitivity in bulimia nervosa. Eleven bulimic patients and 12 control subjects underwent a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study in which they were presented with alternating blocks of 40 disgust-inducing, 40 fear-inducing and 40 affectively neutral scenes. Each scene was shown for 1.5 s. After completion of all blocks, affective ratings were then determined. The viewing of the disgusting pictures, which had been rated as highly repulsive by the bulimic females, was associated with an activation of the left amygdala and the occipito-temporal visual cortex. The subjective and brain-physiological responses did not differ from those of the healthy control subjects. This held true for the fear-inducing scenes as well. Thus, bulimic patients are not characterized by an increased global disgust sensitivity and they do not show any indication of an altered central processing of generally disgust and fear-inducing visual stimuli. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.

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