ABSTRACT Brain mechanisms underlying body image disturbances are a focus of research in the realm of eating disorders, and functional imaging studies have revealed gender differences in the processing of body shape. In this study, using 16-channel near infrared spectroscopy, we investigated frontal lobe activation in 46 healthy university students during viewing of photographs of pathologically thin female forms, and compared gender differences in activation, and examined the correlations between the relative changes in cerebral blood volume, eating attitudes, and perceived feelings. Participants completed the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT26) and rated a visual analogue scale for anxiety/disgust. Significant gender differences in the pattern of activation were noted in the prefrontal region (predominantly right side, dorsolateral to ventral), with male participants showing greater and more widespread frontal activation. The total and subscale scores on EAT26 were significantly correlated with the frontal activation, and perceived feelings were significantly associated with increased prefrontal activation on the left side. Gender differences in frontal activation suggest differential expectations between men and women of pathologically thin female body forms. The study results suggest that anorexic psychopathology may be associated with abnormal right frontal activation while viewing thin bodies of others.
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