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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2004 Aug;43(8):1019-25.

Physiological regulation and infantile anorexia: a pilot study.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC 20010, USA.



To examine whether infantile anorexia is associated with physiological dysregulation.


This study included eight toddlers with infantile anorexia and eight healthy eaters matched for age, race, socioeconomic status, and gender. Physiological measures of heart period and respiratory sinus arrhythmia were assessed across three different situations: mother-toddler interaction, toddler-stranger interaction, and toddler left alone with a toy while mother and stranger talked to each other at the other side of the room.


Across all three situations, toddlers with infantile anorexia showed significantly shorter heart periods (i.e., faster heart rates) than controls (p <.05). In addition, as social demand decreased from episode 2 to episode 3, control toddlers exhibited an increase in respiratory sinus arrhythmia, whereas toddlers with infantile anorexia showed a decrease in respiratory sinus arrhythmia (p <.001).


Toddlers with infantile anorexia showed consistently shorter heart periods and were less adaptive in their physiological regulation than controls. Such physiological dysregulation may constitute a tendency for less optimal internal homeostatic regulation of feeding in toddlers with infantile anorexia.

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