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J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 1991 Sep;13(5):711-28.

Cognition in eating disorders.

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Laboratory of Psychology and Psychopathology, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Cognitive functions were investigated in four groups of women: 30 underweight anorexics, 38 normal-weight bulimics, 20 long-term weight-restored anorexics, and 39 normal controls. A MANOVA was used to examine performance on five neuropsychological domains derived from prior principal components analyses of a comprehensive neuropsychological battery. Underweight anorexics performed more poorly than normal controls in four of five neuropsychological domains (focusing/execution, verbal, memory, and visuospatial), while normal-weight bulimics showed poorer performances only in focusing/execution. The absolute differences in scores between eating disorder groups and normal controls were for the most part small, suggesting subtle rather than frank cognitive difficulties. Poorer neuropsychological test performance was associated with anxiety but not depression as measured by the Tryon, Stein, and Chu Tension scale and scale 2 of the MMPI respectively. The findings support previous reports of attentional difficulties in eating disorders but do not support the hypothesis of differential right-hemisphere dysfunction in eating disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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