Pictures of the Anorexic Brain

From the Desk of Brian Pollack, LCSW
Primary Therapist II

When a person suffers with Anorexia, you will find their ability to think clearly diminishes.

Below are two MRI scans of a person’s brain. You will find that the individual with the non-anorexic brain appears fuller representing a healthier and more functional brain. It also appears to be more suited within the cranial structure of the individual. The anorexic brain is more white, less gray in color and comparatively is missing much [grey] matter.

Additionally, the individual suffering with anorexia has a depleted, nearly diminished pre-frontal cortex. This is evidenced by the front of the brain that is seemingly dark without any grey or white images.

Why is this important?

The pre-frontal cortex is known to have implications in planning, complex thinking and behavior, judgment, personality expression, decision making and social behavior.

Imagine if this part of your brain was half working. How would you interact with the world? Would your thinking be clear? Would you be more negative in life? Would your personality change? Could you complete day to day tasks to completion? Would you become obsessive because your brain seemingly cannot make complete thoughts possible from moment to moment?

Often, when a patient comes to our hospital, there is a multi-step process the treatment team has to monitor and help along in order to regain strength and stronger, more complete thinking. This is one example of how much the brain changes when a person becomes malnourished.

THE GOOD NEWS! The brain is an incredible organ that can regenerate with nutrition. This is a process that requires a medical team and understanding from family and friends. We often don’t realize how we physically can be compromised, especially when it appears to not effect thinking. We must remember it is biological and when a person goes through malnourishment, all caregivers have to be aware of the time, energy, work, and care one requires to find and maintain stability.

It takes a village.