The Big Brains

Ok, so you guys aren’t going to believe this but a new study came out and I am pretty sure it’s going to knock your pants off. So take a deep breath and get ready for this . . . . . .

Anorexics have bigger brains than their non-anorexics peers.

Yep, you read that right. A few curious researchers at the University of Colorado  got ahold of 41 adolescent girls (19 of them had been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa) and stuck each one of girls in a monstrous MRI machine. After analyzing the results, they spotted something rather odd – the brains of the anorexic females had a larger insula as well as a pretty big orbitofrontal lobe.

Now before you head on off to another post (or even worse, another blog) because you have no idea what these big words are, give me a chance to explain what these things actually are. . .

Your brain’s insula can be found hanging out deep inside your temporal lobes. It’s job is to do stuff you really don’t have time to worry about, like controlling your blood pressure, keeping your heart beating,  motor control, and other autonomic functions.  That way you can continue to do the important things in life like stalk people on Facebook and play angry birds. But finally scientists are finding out that this itty bitty part of your brain actually plays a huge role in some other very important things. Scientists now believe that your insula is the head-honcho  when it comes to controlling social emotions. This include things like lust, humiliation, pride, empathy, and here’s the one I think you will find interesting – it actually reads bodily states like hunger and cravings as well as gets excited when you taste food. This obviously makes it a prime-suspect when it comes to researching one of the most merciless and deadly diseases out there – eating disorders.

The other part of the brain that was found to be abnormal in anorexics was the orbitofrontal lobe.  This fella can be found in the front of your brain and is responsible for helping you out with organizing bodily and environmental sensations, making decisions, and controlling reward mechanisms.  It also tells you to stop shoving your face with another serving of your mom’s meatloaf when your tummy feels like it’s nearly about to burst!

Now that you know what these two areas of the brain are responsible for, I bet your wondering how abnormalities in these areas could increase the risk or even cause one to develop an eating disorder. According to the authors of the study,  the peculiar size of these areas in the brains of anorexics could result in altered taste pleasantness and also cause an anorexic to stop eating before their bodies get the correct amount of nourishment they require.  Another interesting fact is that the insula is also responsible for one’s body image, which possibly explains why an anorexic perceives themselves as a huge ball of fat instead of a malnourished skeleton.

I don’t know about you, but I was quite thrilled when I read this article and did further research. I mean, this makes us one step closer to finding a more successful and effective treatment for eating disorders. Maybe one day there will be a pill or surgery we could have for our  instead of having to go through grueling hours of therapy and being forced to eat when we really don’t even want to look at a plate of food.

Just give it some time folks! There is hope!


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