A new study suggests variance in the brain activity of people suffering from body dysmorphia. According to Dr. Jamie Feusner, a UCLA assistant professor of psychiatry, people with body image issues have decreased brain activity when they view holistic images. “No study until this one has investigated the brain’s activity for visually processing objects in people with BDD,” said Feusner, director of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Intensive Treatment Program at UCLA. “This is an important step to figuring out what’s going wrong in the brains of people with body dysmorphia so we can develop treatments to change their perceptions of themselves.”
Body dysmorphia is found in nearly two percent of people and more prevalent in those with obsessive-compulsive tendencies. The study, which involved 14 people with body dysmorphia and 14 control subjects, involved the use of a brain scans in order to determine the brain activity of the subjects while they viewed pictures of houses that were altered and houses that were unaltered. Those with body dysmorphia displayed significantly lower amounts of brain activity in the region of the brain that process visual details. The more severe a person’s symptoms of body dysmorphia, the less activity they displayed.
“The study suggests that body dysmorphia patients have general abnormalities in visual processing,” Feusner said. “But we haven’t yet determined whether abnormal visual processing contributes as a cause to developing body dysmorphia or is the effect of having body dysmorphia. Many psychological researchers have long believed that people with body-image problems such as eating disorders only have distorted thoughts about their appearance, rather than having problems in the visual cortex, which precedes conscious thought. This study, along with our previous ones, shows that people with body dysmorphia have imbalances in the way they see details versus the big picture when viewing themselves, others and even inanimate objects.”
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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