Diminished Adaptation, Satisfaction, and Neural Responses to Advantageous Social Signals in Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa

Yi Luo, Dustin Pluta, Brooks B. Brodrick, Jayme M. Palka, Jordan McCoy, Terry Lohrenz, Xiaosi Gu, Marina Vannucci, P. Read Montague, Carrie J. McAdams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Development and recurrence of 2 eating disorders (EDs), anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are frequently associated with environmental stressors. Neurobehavioral responses to social learning signals were evaluated in both EDs. Methods: Women with anorexia nervosa (n = 25), women with bulimia nervosa (n = 30), or healthy comparison women (n = 38) played a neuroeconomic game in which the norm shifted, generating social learning signals (norm prediction errors [NPEs]) during a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan. A Bayesian logistic regression model examined how the probability of offer acceptance depended on cohort, block, and NPEs. Rejection rates, emotion ratings, and neural responses to NPEs were compared across groups. Results: Relative to the comparison group, both ED cohorts showed less adaptation (p = .028, ηp2 = 0.060), and advantageous signals (positive NPEs) led to higher rejection rates (p = .014, ηp2 = 0.077) and less positive emotion ratings (p = .004, ηp2 = 0.111). Advantageous signals increased neural activations in the orbitofrontal cortex for the comparison group but not for women with anorexia nervosa (p = .018, d = 0.655) or bulimia nervosa (p = .043, d = 0.527). More severe ED symptoms were associated with decreased activation of dorsomedial prefrontal cortex for advantageous signals. Conclusions: Diminished neural processing of advantageous social signals and impaired norm adaptation were observed in both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, while no differences were found for disadvantageous social signals. Development of neurocognitive interventions to increase responsivity to advantageous social signals could augment current treatments, potentially leading to improved clinical outcomes for EDs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-313
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • Eating disorders
  • Learning
  • Neuroimaging
  • Psychopathology
  • Reward
  • Social cognition


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