According to Latestly, Researchers from USC’s Keck School of Medicine discovered substantial gender inequalities in brain structure among people suffering from binge eating disorders in groundbreaking research.
The article was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal “Psychological Medicine.” This gave significant evidence that boys, who had hitherto been excluded from eating problem studies, should be included in future efforts to examine their causes.
“For decades, men have been excluded from eating disorder studies,” said Stuart Murray, DClinPsych, Ph.D., Della Martin Associate Professor of Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. This was done under the mistaken idea that males with eating disorders are non-existent altogether.
“Because we haven’t looked at boys and men, we’ve designed therapies based on researching women, and we hope they work just as well in boys and men,” Murray stated. However, it has become evident in recent years that males and male adolescents experience numerous eating disorders at rates equivalent to girls and female adolescents.
“There appears to be more and more evidence that eating disorders are brain illnesses rather than the product of peer pressure or a lack of self-control,” Murray said. The condition is the same, but the brain anatomy is different. Researchers discovered 38 boys and 33 girls with binge eating disorders among the 11,875 participants in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development project, the most extensive study on brain development in teens in the United States.
Young males account for at least 57% of young people suffering from binge eating disorders. Adult males account for more than half (53%) of people suffering from binge eating disorders. The researchers used voxel-based morphometry, a neuroimaging technique that allows researchers to monitor changes in structural brain architecture throughout the whole brain, to assess the grey matter density of the brains of nine- and ten-year-olds.
Grey matter density was found to be higher in numerous brain areas associated with impulse control and binge eating disorder symptoms in females with binge eating disorder compared to a control group of 74 children of similar age, body mass index (BMI), and developmental maturity levels in the females with binge eating disorder.
Unlike in females, men with binge eating disorders did not exhibit increased grey matter density in these areas. Because of their increased grey matter density, females with binge eating disorders may have altered or delayed synaptic pruning, a critical element of brain development.
Murray says the findings “clearly suggest” the need for a gender-specific neurological basis for binge eating disorder. Because of the differences in brain anatomy between boys and girls who suffer from binge eating disorders, the most frequent eating disorder, including guys, is critical for future therapy. Murray then offered brain-directed therapy for binge eating disorders, such as transcranial magnetic and direct current stimulation.
In past studies, only female volunteers participated in eating disorder research. “Because of gender differences in the brain, treatment for binge eating disorders in both men and women is required. Without it, we’d be wasting money on regions of the male brain that appear normal, “Murray put it succinctly.
Murray and his colleagues will now investigate if there are any changes in the functioning of the brains of men and women suffering from binge eating disorders.