The bonding between primary caregivers and their children is one of the most important aspects of healthy human development. If these bonds are weakened or nonexistent, a child could seek a connection or relationship with some other source. This source could be an unhealthy obsession with body image or a fixation on food and diet, and could ultimately lead to an eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the two major eating disorders affecting people today. Anorexia nervosa is a disease that is characterized as extremely limited eating with a relentless desire to be thin. Bulimia nervosa is characterized by frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and then vomiting to compensate for it.
Research is currently being done to find the genetic, biological, psychological, and social causes of eating disorders. Recently neuroimaging studies have been conducted to examine the differences of brain activity in women with bulimia nervosa and healthy women. Using fMRI, researchers could see the differences in brain activity while the women were asked to perform a task that involved self-regulation. Women with bulimia nervosa did worse on the test because they were more impulsive and inaccurate with the task. The brain scans also showed that bulimic women had less brain activity in the brains areas involved with self-regulation. Although conclusions cannot be drawn from this test alone, these findings could help to development more successful treatments for both bulimia and anorexia.