Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Is it my Biology?

A while ago, I mentioned that for my biological module, I wrote an assignment based on the biological factors of Anorexia. Now, that it's been marked, I can discuss it! (Hopefully, I can keep this as non-scientific as possible!)

We were given a completely free choice of what we wanted to research for this module, so I obviously decided to play to my strengths and research something I know very well already! What I found though, was way beyond what I'd ever imagine. Mental illnesses are never caused by just one factor, almost always a variety of contributors. However, for this I decided to focus on what is called the 'Insula Hypothesis' which can explain Anorexia!

The Insula is an area in the brain, which connects many cortical systems, and when damaged, can explain Anorexia. It's main role is to deal with emotion, experience and bodily functions, so those who are pre-disposed to Anorexia, have difficulty managing emotion, visual and body perception and higher cognitive functioning. If we combine this with the other factors - social, culture, psycho-social pressures and other biological factors (god it's complicated eh?) - then the Insula is unable to combine an accurate sense of body image, state of hunger and reliable cognitive representations of the individuals shape and weight. All of this can then lead to the onset of Anorexia.

So, why have I just given you a biology lesson? Well for me this can explain as to why, when I am exposed to exactly the same social pressures as you, that I am prone to develop an eating disorder. It offers an explanation or cause for a mental illness - something some individuals might take great pleasure in; knowing that it's not their fault and they're biological set this way. I should make clear that I don't believe that this is an excuse for people not recovering though. Also, if we knew our brains were like this, then surely that means treating eating disorders could become far more easier? Tackling the problem before it gets out of hand..? Obviously, it's not that simple as we can't just go around scanning everyone's brains, but it's definitely a step in the right direction!

I know I found this incredibly interesting to research, and I hope I've offered some insight into a biological perspective! If not, sorry for boring you ;)



A very interesting piece Sam! Mental illness and the whole nature/nuture debate has always really interested me, so it's great to see that some of it is actual fact and not just fiction. xxx


Tanya Beetham said...

Very interesting - and I feel very privileged that you allowed me to read your assignment before it was marked and before sharing this on your blog. I am certain that I subscribe more to psychoanalytical models rather than biological models but it is nevertheless very interesting insight!!

hannah said...

I found this very interesting! I even think I understood, despite the complicated terms :) thank you for putting it simply enough for us non technical folk to get it. I hope that it does mean eating disorders can become easier to predict (if it can be predicted by checking for damage of the Insula?) and perhaps easier to treat. xxx

Josie said...

This is a really interesting post Sam! I think I even understand the sciencey bit which is a bit of a miracle haha so well done for breaking down something so complex into simple terms for a numpty like me! But I have always believed that mental illness is a bit of both which is why it can be so hard to treat sometimes I think xxx

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