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Do I Look Fat In This MRI?

April 21, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Neuroradiology
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Women, according to MRI scans, have increased brain activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, while men don’t, when asked to imagine themselves overweight.

At Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, neuroscientist Mark Allen and his team studied ten women and nine men, ages 18-30. While being scanned, the participants were shown photos of people of their own gender, some of whom were overweight and some of whom were thin.

“With each image, the subjects were asked to ‘imagine someone saying your body looks like hers/his,’ ” a story from Fox News┬áreported. “When women looked at images of overweight individuals, their brain scans showed a spike in activity in a region thought to be involved in self-reflection and evaluation of self-worth.”

The women had no such responses when they were asked to view themselves as thin. The men had no responses at all, ever, in the corresponding region of their brains. The researchers concluded that they were not self-reflective in matters of weight.

Prior to the study, the female participants had had psychological screening, and all of their results showed that they had normal body image perception.

In previous work, Allen had seen that anorexic and bulimic patients’ neurological reactions were, predictably, much more marked, but so were those of male body builders, which were as significant as those of bulimic females. But “overall, the results should caution women about the risks of crossing the line from concern about body image into a full-blown eating disorder,” Allen said.

Society has instilled more pressure on women, than on men, to be thin, he concluded, since the variations in brain activity were not due to biological differences between the sexes. But the study did not determine if women were having difficulty considering themselves fat or just considering themselves as different from their current state. Allen said future work would involve women who were actually overweight.

Related seminar: Current Imaging Practice, CT, MR and US

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