Stroop interference task and single-photon emission tomography in anorexia: A preliminary report




The aim of this preliminary study was to investigate the physiologic substrate of executive function in anorexia nervosa (AN) by assessing the relation between brain perfusion and Stroop interference task (SIT).


The classical SIT test and brain single-photon emission tomography (SPET) were evaluated in 16 AN females (mean age = 23.69 ± 8.68 years; mean body mass index [BMI] = 16.19 ± 1.53 kg/m2). The relation between the two examinations was searched by statistical parametric mapping (SPM 99) with a height threshold of p = .001.


An abnormally low or a borderline SIT value was found in 25% of patients. A significant correlation between the SIT score and brain perfusion was found in the superior frontal gyrus of both hemispheres (Brodmann's area [BA] 6 in both hemispheres and BA 8 in the right hemisphere). No correlation was found in the anterior cingulate gyrus.


BA 6 and BA 8 and the anterior cingulate are believed to be the basis of both error detection and immediate correction. Activity of BA 6 and BA 8 reflects this executive task in AN patients as well, whereas the lack of correlation in the anterior cingulate may suggest its blunted activity in AN patients, similarly to what is shown in other conditions characterized by impaired executive function, such as patients with depression, patients with schizophrenia, and abstinent drug abusers. However, these findings should still be quoted as preliminary, given some limitations of the study design, such as the lack of a control group, and the unfeasibility of controlling some relevant confounding variables, such as psychiatric comorbidity, medication, and the time interval between examinations, mainly deriving from the relatively few patients studied. © 2005 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.