OBJECTIVE: Treatment for anorexia nervosa (AN) remains challenging; there are no approved psychopharmacological interventions and psychotherapeutic strategies have variable efficacy. The investigation of evidence-based treatments has so far been compounded by an underdeveloped understanding into the neurobiological changes associated with the acute stages of AN. There is converging evidence of deficiencies in neuroplasticity in AN.

METHOD: This paper provides an overview of neuroimaging, neuropsychological, molecular and qualitative findings relating to neuroplasticity in AN, translating these findings to the identification of novel biological and psychotherapeutic strategies.

RESULTS: Novel psychopharmacological approaches that may ameliorate deficiencies in neuroplasticity include medications such as ketamine, psilocybin and human recombinant leptin. Anti-inflammatory medications and brain-derived neurotrophic factor mimetics may emerge as potential treatments following further research. Psychotherapeutic strategies that may target neuroplastic deficiencies, as well as having wider effects on identity, include imagery rescripting, memory specificity training, cognitive remediation therapy, exposure therapies, narrative therapies, cultural interventions (e.g. music and arts therapies) and yoga/mindfulness-based interventions.

CONCLUSIONS: Treatments specifically targeted towards mitigating the neurobiological sequalae of AN are warranted, and emerging neurobiological and neuropsychological research utilising longitudinal designs and large sample sizes, as well as initial feasibility studies, are necessitated to bolster translational efforts.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Eating Disorders Review
Early online date12 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Oct 2023


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