Distinct Topological Properties of the Reward Anticipation Network in Preadolescent Children With Binge Eating Disorder Symptoms

Elizabeth Martin, Meng Cao, Kurt P. Schulz, Tom Hildebrandt, Robyn Sysko, Laura A. Berner, Xiaobo Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Few studies have considered the neural underpinnings of binge eating disorder (BED) in children, despite clinical and subclinical symptom presentation occurring in this age group. Symptom presentation at this age is of clinical relevance, as early onset of binge eating is linked to negative health outcomes. Studies in adults have highlighted dysfunction in the frontostriatal reward system as a potential candidate for binge eating pathophysiology, although the exact nature of such dysfunction is currently unclear. Method: Data from 83 children (mean age 9.9 years, SD = 0.60) with symptoms of BED (57% girls) and 123 control participants (mean age 10.0 years, SD = 0.60) (52% girls) were acquired from the 4.0 baseline release of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study. Task-based graph theoretic techniques were used to analyze data from anticipation trials of the monetary incentive delay task. Network and nodal properties were compared between groups. Results: The BED-S group showed alterations in topological properties associated with the frontostriatal subnetwork, such as reduced nodal efficiency in the superior frontal gyrus, nucleus accumbens, putamen, and in normal sex-difference patterns of these properties, such as diminished girls-greater-than-boys pattern of betweenness-centrality in nucleus accumbens observed in controls. Conclusion: Distinct network properties and sex-difference patterns in preadolescent children with BED-S suggest dysregulation in the reward system compared to those of matched controls. For the first time, these results quantify this dysregulation in terms of systems-level properties during anticipation of monetary reward and significantly inform the early and sex-related brain markers of BED symptoms.


  • binge eating
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • graph theoretic techniques
  • reward


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