Ob­sess­ing over your ap­pear­ance could mean your brain is wired ab­nor­mally

Wellness Update - - Health News -

LOS AN­GE­LES – Body dys­mor­phic dis­or­der (BDD) is a dis­abling but of­ten mis­un­der­stood psy­chi­atric con­di­tion in which peo­ple per­ceive them­selves to be dis­fig­ured and ugly, even though they look nor­mal to oth­ers. New re­search at UCLA shows th­ese in­di­vid­u­als have ab­nor­mal­i­ties in the un­der­ly­ing con­nec­tions in their brains. Dr. Jamie Feusner, the study's se­nior author and a UCLA as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try, said in­di­vid­u­als with BDD have, in essence, global "bad wiring" in their brains — that is, there are ab­nor­mal net­work-wiring pat­terns across the brain as a whole. And in line with ear­lier UCLA re­search show­ing that peo­ple with BDD process vis­ual in­for­ma­tion ab­nor­mally, the study dis­cov­ered ab­nor­mal con­nec­tions be­tween re­gions of the brain in­volved in vis­ual and emo­tional pro­cess­ing. The find­ings sug­gest th­ese pat­terns in the brain may re­late to im­paired in­for­ma­tion pro­cess­ing. "We found a strong cor­re­la­tion be­tween low ef­fi­ciency of con­nec­tions across the whole brain and the sever­ity of BDD," Feusner said. "The less ef­fi­cient pa­tients' brain con­nec­tions, the worse the symp­toms, par­tic­u­larly for com­pul­sive be­hav­iors such, as check­ing mir­rors." Peo­ple suf­fer­ing from BDD tend to fix­ate on minute de­tails, such as a sin­gle blem­ish on their face or body, rather than view­ing them­selves in their en­tirety. They be­come so distressed with their ap­pear­ance that they of­ten can't lead nor­mal lives, are fear­ful of leav­ing their homes and oc­ca­sion­ally even com­mit sui­cide. Pa­tients fre­quently have to be hos­pi­tal­ized. BDD af­fects ap­prox­i­mately 2 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion and is more preva­lent than schizophre­nia or bipo­lar dis­or­der. De­spite its preva­lence and sever­ity, sci­en­tists know rel­a­tively lit­tle about the neu­ro­bi­ol­ogy of BDD. "How their brain re­gions are con­nected in or­der to com­mu­ni­cate about what they see and how they feel is dis­turbed," said Feusner, who also di­rects the Adult Ob­ses­sive-Com­pul­sive Dis­or­der Pro­gram and the Body Dys­mor­phic Dis­or­der Re­search Pro­gram at UCLA. "Their brains seem to be fine-tuned to be very sen­si­tive to process minute de­tails, but this pat­tern may not al­low their brains to be well-syn­chro­nized across re­gions with dif­fer­ent func­tions," he said. "This could af­fect how they per­ceive their phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance and may also re­sult in them get­ting caught up in the de­tails of other thoughts and cog­ni­tive pro­cesses."

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