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Neuroplasticity is the key to Eating disorders treatment.

November 1, 2008 – 5:16 pm

Researchers are now suggesting that neuroplasticity could be the answer to treating eating disorders.
They are of the view that our own brains, thoughts and emotions are not rigid or fixed in place. But can be changed in order to treat and even cure eating disorders.

So what is neuroplasticity? Let’s define it.

The first part neuro is for neurone (which are the nerve cells in the brain) and plasticity means plastic or changeable.

Neuroplasticity is the property of the brain that allows the brain to change itself.
 
These changes occur in four ways:
(1) By responding to the world in a certain way
(2) By perceiving the world in a certain way
(3) By acting in the world in a certain way
(4) By thinking and imagining in a certain way.
 
All these activities can change the brain and the way it functions. With “directed Neuroplasticity” scientists and clinicians can pass onto the brain a calculated sequence of input and/or specific patterns
of stimulation to make desirable and specific changes in the brain for  the better.

For example, under certain kinds of stimulation the brains of eating disorder sufferers can be made to stop focusing on food and weight issues and start focusing on other things. By focusing on other things
(which is called focused attention) the brain develops new connections between neurons and rewires itself. The old neuronal connections (connections responsible for their eating disorder) will became less and less active and eventually completely replace themselves with the new connections. This is how neuroplasticity works: by deleting old defective neuron connections and developing new healthy ones.
 
To make it easier to understand, the brain is made up of many chains of neuronal connections. These chains are responsible for producing certain feelings; thoughts and actions that make people do things.
And by changing these connections we can change how they feel and act.

Some eating disorder sufferers may say: “Oh well, I’ve been suffering  for so long so I have probably done some damage to my brain which is  irreversible.”  But according to neuroplasticity principles the damage
done does not matter and it can be fixed.
 
Even if some parts of the brain are damaged, other parts of the brain can take over the function of the damaged parts; by developing  new brain connections (or neuronal pass ways) and re-routing them.

Having worked with eating disorder sufferers extensively, I have  noticed that many sufferers are aware that what they are doing in terms of eating and dieting does not make sense, and is even doing harm to the bodies.
 
But they still continue their erratic behaviour because they can’t  resist the continuous “voices” in their head telling them that they  are fat and must continue with their starvation, dieting, or continue
to binge and purge. I know I did and I certainly knew the dangers.

When you ask them “What do you think the voice is?” They normally  answer that it is their brain telling them to do what they do. But  when you tell them that it is not their brain, it is their ED (the
faulty wiring) telling them to starve themselves or binge and purge:  their thought processes start to change. And when they start focusing  on the fact that their eating disorder is something separate from
their brain, the changes in their behaviour became more profound.
 
To conclude, neuroplasticity is a great tool in the treatment and in  the cure of eating disorders: simply because the brain is not static, but is dynamic and always changing.  It undergoes many changes
throughout one’s entire life; you do not have the same brain you were  born with.
 
By influencing and directing these changes with the correct program it  is possible to change peoples eating behaviour, body image and self-esteem. Neuroplasticity is the solution to all eating disorder
sufferers’ problems: change the way you think and you change your life.

To learn more read http://www.eatingdisorder-cure.com

Dr Irina Webster.