Prior research has suggested that people with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) differ in their processing of what they see. As BDD is a disorder that is partly defined by high criticism of self-appearance, more research was needed to understand how visual information processing in BDD worked.
This study by Dr. Feusner and his team explored whether patients with BDD have abnormal brain activation when looking at photographs of their own face. 17 participants with BDD and 16 healthy controls looked at photographs of their own face and a familiar face under different resolutions while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI; a form of neuroimaging). The results supported the idea that people with BDD have abnormalities in visual processing and frontostriatal (brain region linking out to areas associated with movement, cognition, and emotion) systems. When looking at unedited images of their own and familiar faces, participants with BDD had increased activity in a part of the orbitofrontal cortex (a brain region responsible for decision making which is linked to multiple regions related to emotion, reward, and cognition) and caudate (a brain region associated with movement and learning). They also had decreased activity in the occipital cortex (a brain region associated with visual processing) when looking at blurry images of faces. The severity of BDD symptoms also correlated with degree of activity in both systems. This study contributed to the finding of markers of brain activity in people with BDD.
*Feusner, J.D., Moody, T., Hembacher, E., Townsend, J., McKinley, M., Moller, H., & Bookheimer, S. (2010). Abnormalities of visual processing and frontostriatal systems in body dysmorphic disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67(2), 197-205. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.190