Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Anorexia nervosa, self–starvation and the reward of stress

Reduced intake of food and enhanced physical activity, the main behavioral manifestations of self-starvation and anorexia nervosa, activate brain substrates associated with reward.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. Eckert, E.D. et al. Ten-year follow-up of anorexia nervosa: Clinical course and outcome. Psychol. Med. 25, 143–156 (1995).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Lee, S., Ho, T.P. & Hsu, L.K.G. Fat phobic and non-fat phobic anorexia nervosa: a comparative study of 70 Chinese patients in Hong Kong. Psychol. Med. 23, 999–1017 (1993).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Davis, C. et al. The role of physical activity in the development and maintenance of eating disorders. Psychol. Med. 24, 957–967 (1994).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Feighner, J.P. et al. Diagnostic criteria for use in psychiatric research. Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 26, 57–63 (1971).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Hotta, M. et al. The response of plasma adrenocorticotropin and cortisol to corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and cerebrospinal fluid immunoreactive CRH in anorexia nervosa patients. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 62, 319–324 (1986).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Liu, J.-P. et al. Studies of the secretion of corticotropin-releasing factor and arginine vasopressin into the hypophyseal-portal circulation of the conscious sheep. II. The central noradrenergic and neuropeptide Y pathways cause immediate and prolonged hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal activation. Potential involvement in pseudo-Cushing's syndrome of endogenous depression and anorexia nervosa. J. Clin. Invest. 93, 1439–1450 (1994).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Dunn, A.J. & Berridge, C.W. Physiological and behavioral responses to corticotropin-releasing factor administration: Is CRF a mediator of anxiety or stress responses? Brain Res. Rev. 15, 71–100 (1990).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Burden, V.R. et al. Activity of the hypothalamopituitary-adrenal axis is elevated in rats with activity-based anorexia. J. Nutr. 123, 1217–1225 (1993).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Piazza, P.V. et al. Corticosterone in the range of stress-induced levels possesses reinforcingproperties: Implications for sensation-seeking behaviors. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 90, 11738–11742 (1993).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Gull, W.W. Anorexia nervosa (apepsia hysterica, anorexia hysterica). Trans. Clin. Soc. London 7, 22–28 (1874).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Cecateili, S. et al. Expression of c-fos immunoreactivity in transmitter-characterized neurons after stress. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 86, 9569–9573 (1989).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Gratton, A. & Wise, R.A. Drug-and behavior-associated changes in dopamine-related electrochemical signals during intravenous cocaine self-administration in rats. J. Neurosci. 14, 4130–4146 (1994).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Novin, D. et al. In the activity stress paradigm (ASP) there are close relations between vital signs which allows us to predict longevity in rats with unfailing accuracy. Obesity Res. 3 (suppl. 3), 3735 (Abstr.)(1995).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bergh, C., Södersten, P. Anorexia nervosa, self–starvation and the reward of stress. Nat Med 2, 21–22 (1996).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing