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Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2011;6:111-23. doi: 10.1007/7854_2010_83.

Cognitive-behavioral flexibility in anorexia nervosa.

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Department of General Internal Medicine and Psychosomatics Im Neuenheimer Felds 410, Medical Hospital, University of Heidelberg, Germany.


Anorexia nervosa (AN) patients are characterized by perfectionism and obsessional personality traits. This anorectic personality type is associated with an exaggerated cognitive control and impaired cognitive-behavioral flexibility. Neuropsychological studies addressing flexibility have supported an impaired cognitive set-shifting (i.e., concrete and rigid behaviors to changing rules) as well as an impaired behavioral response shifting (i.e., stereotyped or perseverative behaviors) in AN patients independent of nutritional status and body weight. Furthermore, impaired set-shifting was found in healthy sisters of AN patients suggesting that cognitive inflexibility is a trait marker in AN patients. Brain imaging studies have provided new insights in striatocortical circuit dysfunctions that may underlie both the clinical symptoms of obsessive-compulsive personality traits and the neuropsychological observations of impaired cognitive-behavioral flexibility. The conceptualization of AN as a neurodevelopmental striatocortical disorder may help to develop new promising treatment approaches for this severe disorder.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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