Social–emotional processing difficulties have been reported in Anorexia Nervosa (AN), yet the neural correlates remain unclear. Previous neuroimaging work is sparse and has not used functional connectivity paradigms to more fully explore the neural correlates of emotional difficulties. Fifty-seven acutely unwell AN (AAN) women, 60 weight-recovered AN (WR) women and 69 healthy control (HC) women categorised the gender of a series of emotional faces while undergoing Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The mean age of the AAN group was 19.40 (2.83), WR 18.37 (3.59) and HC 19.37 (3.36). A whole brain and psychophysical interaction connectivity approach was used. Parameter estimates from significant clusters were extracted and correlated with clinical symptoms. Whilst no group level differences in whole brain activation were demonstrated, significant group level functional connectivity differences emerged. WR participants showed increased connectivity between the bilateral occipital face area and the cingulate, precentral gyri, superior, middle, medial and inferior frontal gyri compared to AAN and HC when viewing happy valenced faces. Eating disorder symptoms and parameter estimates were positively correlated. Our findings characterise the neural basis of social–emotional processing in a large sample of individuals with AN.
K.T. and S.W. would like to acknowledge: MRC-MRF Fund (MR/S020381/1; BiomaRkers for AnorexIa NErvosa and autism spectrum Disorders?longitudinal study and MR/R004595/1 The Triple A study [Adolescents with Anorexia and Autism]: A search for biomarkers); S.W. also wishes to thank the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King's College London for their continued support of our neuroimaging research. Open Access funding enabled and organized by ProjektDEAL.
© 2021 The Authors. Human Brain Mapping published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.