Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Int J Eat Disord. 2012 May;45(4):501-11. doi: 10.1002/eat.20982. Epub 2012 Jan 24

Visual body perception in anorexia nervosa

OBJECTIVE: Disturbance of body perception is a central aspect of anorexia nervosa (AN) and several neuroimaging studies have documented structural and functional alterations of occipito-temporal cortices involved in visual body processing. However, it is unclear whether these perceptual deficits involve more basic aspects of others' body perception.

METHOD: A consecutive sample of 15 adolescent patients with AN were compared with a group of 15 age- and gender-matched controls in delayed matching to sample tasks requiring the visual discrimination of the form or of the action of others' body.

RESULTS: Patients showed better visual discrimination performance than controls in detail-based processing of body forms but not of body actions, which positively correlated with their increased tendency to convert a signal of punishment into a signal of reinforcement (higher persistence scores).

DISCUSSION: The paradoxical advantage of patients with AN in detail-based body processing may be associated to their tendency to routinely explore body parts as a consequence of their obsessive worries about body appearance.

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