Discover Brigham
Poster Session

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021 | 1pm - 3:45pm et

Virtual Event

Eve Cohen

Research Trainee
General Neurology
An eating disorders network derived from human brain lesions

Principal Investigator: Michael D. Fox

Authors: Eve Cohen, Frederic L.W.V.J. Schaper, Christopher Lin, Joseph Taylor, Michael D. Fox
Lay Abstract

Identifying brain regions involved in eating disorders


Patients with eating disorders display symptoms such as food avoidance, impulse control, obsessions, and compulsions leading to severe disability and loss in quality of life. Identifying the brain circuit causing eating disorders can lead to more circuit-based and improved treatment strategies. Here, we leverage a novel technique that can map symptoms to brain circuits using a ‘wiring diagram of the human brain’. We identify a brain circuit consistently damaged by lesions causing eating disorders and relate our eating disorders brain circuit to effective brain stimulation sites. This brain circuit may point to novel therapeutic targets for eating disorders.

Scientific Abstract


Functional neuroimaging studies suggest a brain network associated with eating disorders, but causal information is lacking. In this study, we leverage brain lesions causing eating disorders and a wiring diagram (or connectome) of the human brain to identify an eating disorders network.


We reviewed the literature and identified 15 case reports of lesion-induced eating disorders. We mapped the lesion locations to a common brain template and computed the functional connections of each lesion using normative human connectome data (n=1000). We identified the network common to all lesions, assessed overlap with task-based neuroimaging studies, and investigated therapeutic relevance using published neurosurgical ablation and deep brain stimulation (DBS) sites.


No single brain region was lesioned in all cases. However, all lesions were functionally connected to the subthalamic nucleus/substantia nigra (STN/SN) transition zone. Our eating disorder network aligned with brain activation in neuroimaging studies of eating and effective ablation and DBS sites.


Brain lesions associated with eating disorders map to a common circuit defined by functional connectivity to the STN/SN transition zone, a region previously implicated in reward processing and weight change. This network may be therapeutically relevant for identifying novel ablation and DBS targets for eating disorders.

Clinical Implications
We identified an eating disorders network using causal information from brain lesions and a ‘wiring diagram’ of the human brain. This network may be therapeutically relevant for identifying novel brain stimulation targets for the treatment of patients with eating disorders.

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