Background: Despite the great number of resting state functional connectivity studies on Eating Disorders (ED), no biomarkers could be detected yet. Therefore, we here focus on a different measure of resting state activity that is neuronal variability. The objective of this study was to investigate neuronal variability in the resting state of women with ED and to correlate possible differences with clinical and psychopathological indices. Methods: 58 women respectively 25 with Anorexia Nervosa (AN), 16 with Bulimia Nervosa (BN) and 17 matched healthy controls (CN) were enrolled for the study. All participants were tested with a battery of psychometric tests and underwent a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) resting state scanning. We investigated topographical patterns of variability measured by the Standard Deviation (SD) of the Blood-Oxygen-Level-Dependent (BOLD) signal (as a measure of neuronal variability) in the resting-state and their relationship to clinical and psychopathological indices. Results: Neuronal variability was increased in both anorectic and bulimic subjects specifically in the Ventral Attention Network (VAN) compared to healthy controls. No significant differences were found in the other networks. Significant correlations were found between neuronal variability of VAN and various clinical and psychopathological indices. Conclusions: We here show increased neuronal variability of VAN in ED patients. As the VAN is relevant for switching between endogenous and exogenous stimuli, our results showing increased neuronal variability suggest unstable balance between body attention and attention to external world. These results offer new perspective on the neurobiological basis of ED. Clinical and therapeutic implication will be discussed.
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