Activity-based anorexia, an animal model of anorexia nervosa for investigating brain plasticity underlying the gain of resilience

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a mental illness characterized by continuously severe, self-imposed starvation and intense anxiety, manifested as fear of gaining weight. An increasing number of individuals are diagnosed with AN, especially among men. AN is now recognized to include those serving the military as well. With no accepted pharmacological treatments available, coupled with its high mortality and relapse rates, better understanding of the neurobiological basis of this mental illness is needed. This chapter describes the animal model of AN, called activity-based anorexia (ABA), that captures multiple core features of AN successfully, including voluntary food restriction, heightened anxiety, and excessive exercise, culminating in severe body weight loss. Also described in this chapter is how individual differences in vulnerability to ABA can be quantified. This chapter will include examples of synaptic plasticity measurements that may underlie the gain of resilience, quantified as the suppression of two maladaptive behaviors – excessive exercise and voluntary food restriction. Finally, the chapter will describe potential uses of the ABA model for exploring pharmacological treatments to reduce the maladaptive behaviors elicited in the ABA model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNeuromethods
PublisherHumana Press Inc.
Number of pages30
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

ISSN (Print)0893-2336
ISSN (Electronic)1940-6045


  • Dopamine
  • Food restriction
  • Food-anticipatory activity
  • GABA
  • Glutamate
  • Hippocampus
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Rodents
  • Serotonin
  • Synaptic plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • General Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience


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