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Cognitive and executive functions in anorexia nervosa ten years after onset of eating disorder.

Journal article
Authors I Carina Gillberg
Maria Råstam
Elisabet Wentz
Christopher Gillberg
Published in Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology
Volume 29
Issue 2
Pages 170-178
ISSN 1380-3395
Publication year 2007
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Pages 170-178
Language en
Keywords Adolescent, Age of Onset, Anorexia Nervosa, Psychology, Autistic Disorder, Psychology, Child, Cognition, Physiology, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Intelligence Tests, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Memory, Physiology, Neuropsychological Tests, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Psychomotor Performance, Physiology, Recognition (Psychology), Physiology
Subject categories Psychiatry


In a longitudinal study, the authors explore the course of general cognition in anorexia nervosa (AN) over time and compare general cognitive problems, executive function deficits, attentional problems and visuomotor dysfunctions across AN individuals and healthy controls. A community-based sample of adolescent onset AN cases (n=40-47) was contrasted with an age-, sex- and school matched comparison group (n=47-51) on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and Luria word recall test at a mean age of 24 years. Only two of the cases tested were underweight at the time of the study. The Wechsler scale had also been administered when the groups had a mean age of 21 years. There were few differences across the two groups even though the comparison group performed significantly better on the Object Assembly subtest of the WAIS-R. IQ increased slightly but significantly over time in both groups. There was no relationship between level of starvation and poor results on tests in the AN group. A subgroup of the subjects had autism spectrum disorders. In this subgroup there were cases with test profiles similar to those observed in autism and Asperger syndrome, just as there had been on testing three years previously. Ten years after AN onset, the former AN cases showed no major neuropsychological deficits. A subgroup with autistic features had test profiles similar to those observed in autism spectrum disorders. The AN group as a whole showed poor results on the object assembly subtest indicating weak central coherence with a tendency to focus on details at the expense of configural information. This cognitive style may account for their obsession with details, with implications for psychoeducational approaches in treatment programmes/interventions.

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