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Psychol Med. 2008 Dec;38(12):1741-8. doi: 10.1017/S0033291708002961. Epub 2008 Feb 29.

The inability to ignore: distractibility in women with restricting anorexia nervosa.

Author information

1
Section of Eating Disorders, Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK. h.dickson@iop.kcl.ac.uk

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Attentional difficulties reported in individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN) may be due to preferential processing of disease-salient stimuli at a pre-attentive or at a conscious level or to a general problem in attention. Attentional difficulties may be associated with duration of illness.

METHOD:

Female participants with AN (restricting subtype; n=24) and healthy comparison women (n=24) were randomly allocated to subliminal or supraliminal exposure to visual stimuli (food, neutral and aversive images) while performing the 1-back and 2-back working-memory tasks.

RESULTS:

Participants with AN made fewer errors than the healthy comparison group in the subliminal condition but significantly more errors in the supraliminal condition [condition x group interaction, F(1, 44)=6.82, p<0.01]: this was irrespective of stimulus type (food, neutral and aversive) and task (1-back or 2-back). The total number of errors made correlated positively with the duration of the AN for both the 1-back task (rs=0.46, p<0.05) and for the 2-back task (rs=0.53, p<0.01).

CONCLUSIONS:

Decreased ability to concentrate in the presence of explicit distracters is a feature of AN and is associated with longer duration of illness. This phenomenon could be addressed in psychological interventions.

PMID:
18307830
DOI:
10.1017/S0033291708002961
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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