Presenting at the Bucharest International ABA Conference:
Hyperactivity and anorexia: Insights from laboratory models of induction
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Madrid, Spain
Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is a disorder characterized by the high failure of treatment approaches, both psychological and pharmacological. The low rate of clinical success may be due to a mischaracterization in most commonly used classifications, DSM and ICD, which implies a therapeutic approach focused on non-nuclear symptoms and delayed diagnosis. Some authors point out that core symptomatology on the DSM and ICD (food rejection and distortions in the body image) could develop in late stages and be the result of the neurological affectation of malnutrition, rather than the cause of the disorder. The activity-based anorexia (ABA) protocol has been widely accepted as an animal model of the disorder and has been used to test possible treatments for AN. There is experimental evidence in ABA suggesting that excessive activity is a crucial factor in the development of the phenomenon. The aim of this presentation is to review the results from animal research using the ABA model with an emphasis on the evidence and possible explanatory mechanisms of excessive activity. Results obtained in our laboratory suggest that the combination of food restriction and exercise is the way to develop anorexia. Increased activity is a common foraging response in mammals subjected to food restriction. This activity is expressed more frequently under diet, which facilitates its subsequent increase by mechanisms of reinforcement and induction. It has been proposed that the contingencies established by Western culture encourage people to be involved in exercise and diet regimes, which in some individuals may lead to the combination of strong food restriction and hyperactivity, initiating the cycle of anorexia. These results are in line with historical descriptions of the disorder and new clinical and research evidence that reports an excessive physical activity in a high proportion of diagnosed patients. The proposed theoretical view will be based on basic and clinical research data of several studies that point in the same direction, in order to propose a different framework that can guide future research and clinical approaches to AN.