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Body Image

January 4, 2006

People with anorexia and other eating disorders can become dangerously thin but still feel overweight. New research may point to a cause.


How the brain sizes up the body. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Whether you feel flabby or fit depends on your brain as well as your waistline. This according to neurologist Henrik Ehrsson and his colleagues at University College, London. They stimulated the nerves in volunteers’ bodies in a way that tricked them into feeling like their waistlines were shrinking. The illusion activated a part of the subjects’ brains called the posterior parietal cortex, which integrates sensory signals from all over the body. The nerve stimulation for each person was the same, yet some experienced the shrinking sensation more strongly, and had more activity in this part of the brain.

HENRIK EHRSSON (University College, London):
That suggests that two people who have identical bodies might experience their body image differently.

This may lead to a better understanding of anorexia and other body-image disorders.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.