Set shifting deficit in anorexia nervosa

Steinglass, Joanna E.; Walsh, B. Timothy; Stern, Yaakov

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a severe mental illness characterized in part by rigid thinking and ritualized behaviors involving eating and weight. Cognitive rigidity may play a role in the perpetuation of symptoms, and may provide information as to important brain-based abnormalities. Neuropsychological studies of patients with AN have shown cognitive dysfunction, but few have focused on cognitive flexibility. This study assessed set shifting in patients with AN, as a measure of cognitive flexibility. In this study, 15 patients with AN were compared with 11 healthy controls using a neuropsychological battery including the Wisconsin Card Sort Test (WCST). While patients with AN did not differ from controls on 5 measures of neuropsychological function, they made significantly more perseverative errors on the WCST, indicating a problem in set shifting. This finding suggests that patients with AN have a specific neurocognitive abnormality that may play a role in the development and persistence of this disorder.



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Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society

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February 11, 2022

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