Already during World War II, the famous Minnesota Starvation Experiment in healthy men showed that semi-starvation causes disturbed food desire, elevated negative affect, stress and disordered eating choices. We see this also in anorexia nervosa (AN) patients, where cognitive-affective processes (e.g. drive for food, positive and negative affect, and self-control through food-control) are severely impacted by underlying physical processes once patients reach a semi-starvation state. For example, Patients with AN do not detect strong signals for hunger and satiety and experience a profound sense of stress and anxiety for food, instead of experiencing pleasure or reward. These alterations in motivational and appetitive functioning make food choices highly stressful for AN patients and re-nourishment during treatment often a negative experience. This project investigates the role of biological mechanisms (eg. GI-peptides, microbiota, immune markers, nutritional state…) associated to semi-starvation, in stress sensitivity, cognitive-affective state and food choices in AN. Specifically we will investigating the relationship between these biological markers with two psychobiological endophenotypes involved in AN patients' aberrant eating habits: the positive valence system (positive affect, drive to eat and taste, resulting in affect-related food choices) and the arousal/regulatory system (eg. energy balance and stress arousal).
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