Exploring the mental health aspect of eating disorders is beyond important because the way in which a person perceives himself or herself can affect the severity of physical health complications. Because of this, in their research article, Urgesi et al. (2012) explored the issue of visual body perception as related to the manifestation of anorexia nervosa (AN). According to the authors, problems with realistically perceiving one’s body represent the central aspect of AN, with multiple neuroimaging studied documenting both functional and structural alterations of occipitotemporal cortices that are integrated into visual body processing. Although, it remains unclear whether the perceptual deficits are associated with a higher number of basic aspects of body perception.
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The researchers involved 15 adolescent patients diagnosed with AN and matched to a control group corresponding with their age and gender. It was revealed that AN patients had greater likelihood of discriminating their visual bodies and having negative body image (but not actions) in contrast to their control group counterparts. Such negative attitudes of the patients were associated with their likelihood to transform punishment signals into signals of reinforcement.
Therefore, the findings of the study are ambiguous in nature. Due to the detail-based processing of their bodies, patients with AN have a higher tendency of routinely exploring their body parts as a result of obsessive worriers about body appearance. The way in which AN patients perceive their physical appearance may contribute to the exasperation of the condition; however, the increased tendency to convert punishment into reinforcement enhances the likelihood of patients to work on themselves. Yet, the mental health aspect has not been explored in greater detail, which calls for additional studies on the topic.
Urgesi, C., Fornasari, L., Perini, L., Canalaz, F., Cremaschi, S., Faleschini, L., Balestrieri, M., Fabbro, F., Aglioti, S. M., & Brambilla, P. (2012). Visual body perception in anorexia nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 45(4), 501–511. Web.