This project aims to identify responses in mesolimbic reward circuitry to typically rewarding stimuli (i.e., entertaining video clips) and disorder-specific stimuli (i.e., restrictive eating cues) among recently weight restored individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN). This study will determine whether responding in mesolimbic circuitry to typical and/or disorder-specific rewards predicts restrictive eating and risk of relapse.
AN is associated with extremely poor outcomes and high mortality rates. Although intensive treatment can restore weight to a healthy range, half of individuals with AN relapse within one year of weight restoration. These poor outcomes are due, in part, to the excessive drive towards restrictive eating characterizing this disorder. Little is known regarding the psychobiological mechanisms that maintain restrictive eating and promote relapse. However, there is initial research suggesting that deficit valuation of typically rewarding cues and enhanced valuation of disorder-specific rewards may influence AN symptoms. Therefore, this project will meet a critical need by identifying reward mechanisms predicting restrictive eating and relapse in AN. This knowledge will ultimately promote the development of more effectively targeted treatments promoting long-term recovery from AN.