Neural responses to kindness and malevolence differ in illness and recovery in women with anorexia nervosa

Carrie J. Mcadams, Terry Lohrenz, P. Read Montague

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


In anorexia nervosa, problems with social relationships contribute to illness, and improvements in social support are associated with recovery. Using the multiround trust game and 3T MRI, we compare neural responses in a social relationship in three groups of women: women with anorexia nervosa, women in long-term weight recovery from anorexia nervosa, and healthy comparison women. Surrogate markers related to social signals in the game were computed each round to assess whether the relationship was improving (benevolence) or deteriorating (malevolence) for each subject. Compared with healthy women, neural responses to benevolence were diminished in the precuneus and right angular gyrus in both currently-ill and weight-recovered subjects with anorexia, but neural responses to malevolence differed in the left fusiform only in currently-ill subjects. Next, using a whole-brain regression, we identified an office assessment, the positive personalizing bias, that was inversely correlated with neural activity in the occipital lobe, the precuneus and posterior cingulate, the bilateral temporoparietal junctions, and dorsal anterior cingulate, during benevolence for all groups of subjects. The positive personalizing bias is a self-report measure that assesses the degree with which a person attributes positive experiences to other people. These data suggest that problems in perceiving kindness may be a consistent trait related to the development of anorexia nervosa, whereas recognizing malevolence may be related to recovery. Future work on social brain function, in both healthy and psychiatric populations, should consider positive personalizing biases as a possible marker of neural differences related to kindness perception. Hum Brain Mapp 36:5207-5219, 2015.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5207-5219
Number of pages13
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Default mode network
  • Eating disorders
  • FMRI
  • Neuroeconomic
  • Social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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