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J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2018 Feb;40(1):30-44. doi: 10.1080/13803395.2017.1313392. Epub 2017 Apr 11.

Control over interfering memories in eating disorders.

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a Department of Developmental and Social Psychology , University of Padova , Padova , Italy.
b Department of Life Sciences , University of Trieste , Trieste , Italy.
c Azienda Provinciale per i Servizi Sanitari , Trento , Italy.
d Department of General Psychology , University of Padova , Padova , Italy.



Recent studies have suggested that patients suffering from either anorexia nervosa (AN) or bulimia nervosa (BN) exhibit abnormal performance in the ability to control cognitive interference in response selection.


We assessed the status of cognitive control in episodic memory by addressing the ability to inhibit interfering memories. To this end, we used the retrieval-practice paradigm, which allows for measuring both the beneficial and the detrimental effects of memory practice. The latter phenomenon, known as retrieval-induced forgetting (RIF), is thought to reflect an adaptive inhibitory mechanism aimed at reducing competition in memory retrieval. Twenty-seven healthy controls and 27 patients suffering from eating disorders (either AN or BN) performed a retrieval-practice paradigm and a control task addressing general reactivity and filled a self-report questionnaire on impulsivity.


No differences between patients and healthy controls were observed for the beneficial effects of practice. The same pattern also emerged for RIF. However, when patients with AN and BN were analyzed separately, a clear dissociation emerged: patients with AN displayed no hint of RIF, whereas patients with BN showed an intact memory suppression performance. No group differences emerged in the control task.


Our findings suggest a specific impairment in the ability to suppress interfering memories in patients with AN, thus extending current evidence of cognitive control deficits in AN to episodic memory.


Anorexia nervosa; Bulimia nervosa; Cognitive control; Eating disorders; Memory suppression; Retrieval-induced forgetting

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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