Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Why the mirror lies

02.02.2010
In people with body dysmorphic disorder, distorted self-image could be the result of the brain's abnormal processing of visual input

Everyone checks themselves in the mirror now and then, but that experience can be horrifying for individuals suffering from body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, a psychiatric condition that causes them to believe, wrongly, that they appear disfigured and ugly. These people tend to fixate on minute details — every tiny blemish looms huge — rather than viewing their face as a whole.

Now researchers at UCLA have determined that the brains of people with BDD have abnormalities in processing visual input, particularly when examining their own face. Further, they found that the same systems of the brain are overactive in both BDD and obsessive-compulsive disorder, suggesting a link between the two. The research appears in the February issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

"People with BDD are ashamed, anxious and depressed," said Dr. Jamie Feusner, an assistant professor of psychiatry and lead author of the study. "They obsess over tiny flaws on their face or body that other people would never even notice. Some refuse to leave the house, others feel the need to cover parts of their face or body, and some undergo multiple plastic surgeries. About half are hospitalized at some point in their lifetimes, and about one-fourth attempt suicide."

Despite its prevalence — BDD affects an estimated 1 to 2 percent of the population — and severe effects, little is known about the underlying brain abnormalities that contribute to the disease.

To better understand its neurobiology, Feusner and colleagues examined 17 patients with BDD and matched them by sex, age and education level with 16 healthy people. Participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while viewing photographs of two faces — their own and that of a familiar actor — first unaltered, and then altered in two ways to parse out different elements of visual processing.

One altered version included only high–spatial frequency information, which would allow detailed analysis of facial traits, including blemishes and hairs. The other showed only low–spatial frequency information, conveying the general shape of the face and the relationship between facial features.

Compared to the control participants, individuals with BDD demonstrated abnormal brain activity in visual processing systems when viewing the unaltered and low–spatial frequency versions of their own faces. They also had unusual activation patterns in their frontostriatal systems, which help control and guide behavior and maintain emotional flexibility in responding to situations.

Brain activity in both systems correlated with the severity of symptoms. In addition, differences in activity in the frontostriatal system varied based on participant reports of how disgusting or repulsive they found each image. Basically, how ugly the individuals viewed themselves appeared to explain abnormal brain activity in these systems.

The abnormal activation patterns, especially in response to low-frequency images, suggest that individuals with body dysmorphic disorder have difficulties perceiving or processing general information about faces.

"This may account for their inability to see the big picture — their face as a whole," Feusner said. "They become obsessed with detail and think everybody will notice any slight imperfection on their face. They just don't see their face holistically."

Some of the patterns, said Feusner, also appear to be similar to those observed in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder, supporting hypotheses that the two conditions share similar neural pathways. However, future studies are needed to further elucidate the causes and development of body dysmorphic disorder.

Other authors on the paper include Teena Moody, Emily Hembacher, Jennifer Townsend, Malin McKinley, Hayley Moller and Susan Bookheimer, all of UCLA.

The research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation, a research grant from UCLA, the National Center for Research Resources, the National Institutes of Health, the Brain Mapping Medical Research Organization, the Brain Mapping Support Foundation, the Pierson–Lovelace Foundation, the Ahmanson Foundation, the William M. and Linda R. Dietel Philanthropic Fund at the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation, the Tamkin Foundation, the Jennifer Jones-Simon Foundation, the Capital Group Companies Charitable Foundation, the Robson Family and the Northstar Fund.

The UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences is the home within the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA for faculty who are experts in the origins and treatment of disorders of complex human behavior. The department is part of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, a world-leading interdisciplinary research and education institute devoted to the understanding of complex human behavior and the causes and consequences of neuropsychiatric disorders.

Mark Wheeler | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucla.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Vanishing capillaries
23.03.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht How prenatal maternal infections may affect genetic factors in Autism spectrum disorder
22.03.2017 | University of California - San Diego

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short

23.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics

23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>