Strategic memory in adults with anorexia nervosa: Are there similarities to obsessive compulsive spectrum disorders?




There is growing interest in the relationship between anorexia nervosa (AN) and obsessive-compulsive (OC) spectrum disorders (e.g., OCD, body dysmorphic disorder [BDD]). Previous neuropsychological investigations of OC spectrum disorders have identified problems with the efficient use of strategy on complex measures of learning and memory. This study evaluated nonverbal strategic memory in AN outpatients using an approach previously applied to OC spectrum disorders.


Eighteen patients with AN and 19 healthy control participants completed the Rey–Osterrieth Complex Figure Test (RCFT), a widely used measure of nonverbal strategic planning, learning, and memory.


Individuals with AN differed significantly from healthy controls in the organizational strategies used to copy the RCFT figure, and they recalled significantly less information on both immediate and delayed testing. Multiple regression analyses indicated that group differences in learning were mediated by copy organizational strategies.


These results are identical to study findings in OCD and BDD, indicating important shared neuropsychological features among AN and these OC spectrum disorders. As in OCD and BDD, the essential cognitive deficit in AN was impaired use of organizational strategies, which may inform our understanding of the pathophysiology of AN and potentially offer treatment implications. © 2006 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 2006