Introduction: Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious and persistent eating disorder, characterized by severe dietary restriction and weight loss, with a third of patients developing a  severe-enduring form. The factors contributing to this progression are poorly understood, although there is evidence for impairments in neural structures such as the hippocampus, an area particularly affected by malnutrition and chronic stress. Areas covered: This study aimed to map the evidence for alterations in hippocampal volume, function, and related molecular activity in anorexia nervosa. PubMed, PsycINFO, and Web of Science were searched for studies related to hippocampal function and integrity using a range of methodologies, such as neuropsychological paradigms, structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging, and analysis of blood components. Expert opinion: Thirty-nine studies were included in this review. The majority were neuroimaging studies, which found hippocampus-specific volumetric and functional impairments. Neuropsychological studies showed evidence for a specific memory and learning impairments. There was some evidence for molecular abnormalities (e.g. cortisol), although these were few studies. Taken together, our review suggests that the hippocampus might be a particular region of interest when considering neurobiological approaches to understanding AN. These findings warrant further investigation and may lead to novel treatment approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1367-1387
JournalExpert review of clinical pharmacology
Early online date11 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2020


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • hippocampal function
  • hippocampus
  • scoping review


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