Abnormal brain wiring may explain why some people become so fixated on their
appearance that their obsession makes it hard for them to function, a new study
The study included people with body dysmorphic disorder, a mental illness
that causes people to believe they are disfigured and ugly, even though they
These patients have abnormal network-wiring patterns across the brain, the
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), researchers discovered. Earlier
UCLA research showed that people with body dysmorphic disorder process visual
information abnormally. In line with that finding, this study revealed that
people with this disorder have abnormal connections between brain regions
involved in visual and emotional processing.
The findings, published in the May issue of the journal
Neuropsychopharmacology, suggest that abnormal brain wiring in people
with body dysmorphic disorder may cause impaired information processing.
"We found a strong correlation between low efficiency of connections across
the whole brain and the severity of [body dysmorphic disorder]," study senior
author Jamie Feusner, an associate professor of psychiatry, said in a university
"The less efficient patients' brain connections, the worse the symptoms,
particularly for compulsive behaviours, such as checking mirrors."
For the study, the researchers examined brain scans of 14 adults with body
dysmorphic disorder and 16 adults without the disorder.
The findings advance the understanding of body dysmorphic disorder by
providing evidence that the "hard wiring" of patients' brain networks is
abnormal, Feusner said.
"These abnormal brain networks could relate to how they perceive, feel and
behave," he explained. "This is significant because it could possibly lead to us
being able to identify early on if someone is predisposed to developing this
Body dysmorphic disorder affects about 2% of the population. People with the
condition fixate on minor or imagined flaws in their appearance - such as a
blemish on their face - and some become so distraught that they can't lead
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has more about body