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Negative Body Image Related To Gut and Brain Connection

Sep, 2021 - By WMR

Negative Body Image Related To Gut and Brain Connection

A study suggests that negative body image and weight preoccupation is linked with the strength of connection between brain and internal organs.

A team of psychologists and neuroscientists from Anglia Ruskin University conducted a study which is the first one to identify the relation between body image and brain’s process. The research suggests that negative body image is linked with weak brain responses to signals from internal organs such as gut and heart. Individuals having poor brain efficiency at detecting these signals are prone to suffer body negativity and weight preoccupation. The scientists assume that the study could help to diagnose biomarkers for mental health diseases and to develop new treatments.

The study investigated the relationship between body image and interoception (sense of internal state of the body). The scientists examined a group of 36 healthy people from the U.K and conducted different body image-related tests including tracking feelings of body shame and weight obsession. Later, they noted two electrophysiological measures of interoception. One is heartbeat-evoked potential (HEP) and the other is gastric-alpha-phase-amplitude coupling (PAC). HEP traces the response of the brain to a beating heart and PAC keeps track of electrical activity in gut and brain to record the brain’s response to the gut signals. The scientists found that weak HEP and PAC measures indicated abnormal interoception and subjects with weak signals between brain and the body were prone to face negative body image. It was maybe because of weaker association between the brain and internal body, making the subjects focus more on the external body, which makes appearance a bigger deal when thinking about themselves.

The team explains that the measures used in the study could help identify negative body image and related conditions like eating disorders. It might also be possible to train people to understand the interoception closely so it would enhance these unconscious signals. According to the scientists, some people’s brain are better at detecting those signals and it makes it the subject of future research to study their neuro-anatomical connections.

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