Brain structure changes when one suffers from anorexia nervosa, but researchers have discovered that cortical thickness can return once a patient is healthy again.

Professor Stefan Ehrlich at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus at the TU Dresden (Faculty of Medicine) led a team of researchers from the Translational Developmental Neuroscience Lab and used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to see how anorexia nervosa affects the brain, according to

"The global thinning of cortical gray matter observed in acutely ill adolescent patients can be completely reversed following successful weight rehabilitation therapy," study authors found.

Past studies were unable to truly answer questions about the specific areas of the brain and effects post-therapy, according to

"Not only the spatial expanse but also the magnitude of cortical gray matter thinning in acute anorexia nervosa is noteworthy - comparable to that typically observed in Alzheimer's disease," Ehrlich said.

Those who participated in the study were scanned prior to therapy and were then admitted and treated at the eating disorder clinics at Dresdener University Hospital. After successful therapy (about half were able to maintain their healthy weight), they were scanned again.

"We observed complete normalization of cortical gray matter thickness in the long-term weight rehabilitated patients in our sample, which is a particularly encouraging finding for those suffering from the disorder," Ehrlich said. 

The study findings were published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.