King's College London

Research portal

FMRI Study of Neural Responses to Implicit Infant Emotion in Anorexia Nervosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)780
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Accepted/In press26 Apr 2017
Published17 May 2017


King's Authors


Difficulties in social-emotional processing have been proposed to play an important role in the development and maintenance of anorexia nervosa (AN). Few studies, thus far, have investigated neural processes that underlie these difficulties, including processing emotional facial expressions. However, the majority of these studies have investigated neural responses to adult emotional display, which may be confounded by elevated sensitivity to social rank and threat in AN. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the neural processes underlying implicit processing of positively and negatively valenced infant emotional display in AN. Twenty-one adult women with AN and twenty-six healthy comparison (HC) women were presented with images of positively valenced, negatively valenced, and neutral infant faces during a fMRI scan. Significant differences between the groups in positive > neutral and negative > neutral contrasts were investigated in a priori regions of interest, including the bilateral amygdala, insula, and lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC). The findings revealed that the AN participants showed relatively increased recruitment while the HC participants showed relatively reduced recruitment of the bilateral amygdala and the right dorsolateral PFC in the positive > neutral contrast. In the negative > neutral contrast, the AN group showed relatively increased recruitment of the left posterior insula while the HC groups showed relatively reduced recruitment of this region. These findings suggest that people with AN may engage in implicit prefrontal down-regulation of elevated limbic reactivity to positively social-emotional stimuli.

Download statistics

No data available

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454