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Adaptive decision making to eat is crucial for survival, but in anorexia nervosa, the brain persistently supports reduced food intake despite a growing need for energy. How the brain persists in reducing food intake, sometimes even to the point of death and despite the evolution of multiple mechanisms to ensure survival by governing adaptive eating behaviors, remains mysterious. Neural substrates belong to the reward-habit system, which could differ among the eating disorders. The present review provides an overview of neural circuitry of restrictive food choice, binge eating, and the contribution of specific serotonin receptors. One possibility is that restrictive food intake critically engages goal-directed (decision making) systems and “habit,” supporting the view that persistent caloric restriction mimics some aspects of addiction to drugs of abuse.

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Originally published in the Journal of Neuroscience, 35(41), 13868-13878. Licensed under CC BY 4.0. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2602-15.2015