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Keywords:

  • anorexia nervosa;
  • executive functions;
  • Delis-Kaplan executive function system sorting test

ABSTRACT

Objective

Efforts have been made to characterize executive functions (EF) in anorexia nervosa (AN) both in the acute stage of the illness and after weight gain, yet many questions remain. The question of verbal versus visuo-perceptual stimuli in this regard has not been adequately addressed. The aim of this study is to further examine EF in women with past and present AN and to compare their performances in verbal and visual modalities with women who have never suffered from an eating disorder.

Method

Thirty-five underweight AN patients, 33 weight-restored patients symptom-free for at least 2 years, and 48 healthy female controls completed the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System Sorting Test, so as to evaluate their EF.

Results

No differences were observed between the scores of women with current and past AN. Both groups scored lower than controls on most test variables. However, while in the visuo-perceptual domain the performance of the AN groups was worse than that of controls, in the verbal domain they performed similarly to them.

Discussion

Women with a past or present diagnosis of AN show difficulties in visuo-perceptual EF, whereas verbal EF seem to be preserved. There may be a dissociation between verbal and visuo-perceptual EF that persists after weight restoration. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2014; 47:92–98)