Threat-related attentional bias in anorexia nervosa


  • Supported by RP-PG-0606-1043 from National Institute for Health Research Program and by NHS, the NIHR, or the Department of Health. Ulrike Schmidt, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) specialist Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health award at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London.



Attentional bias (AB) modification treatment targeting general or social anxiety has been recently highlighted as a potential novel approach for the treatment of anorexia nervosa (AN). The purpose of this study was to examine threat-related AB in patients with ANand healthy control participants (HC) and the relationship between AB and eating disorder and other psychopathology.


Forty-nine female outpatients with AN or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, Anorexia Type (EDNOS-AN), and 44 female HC completed a dot-probe task with threat words and a range of self-report measures assessing eating disorder symptoms and other psychopathology.


There was no evidence for a differential threat-related AB in AN patients despite elevated anxiety in this group. The AB-index, a parameter of the magnitude of attention allocation when two competing stimuli are presented, did not correlate with any of the self-report measures. However, patients with AN responded significantly more slowly to the probe as compared to controls, regardless of the valence or position of the stimuli.


The results suggest that the AB in AN patients may be specific to eating disorder-relevant anxieties. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2014; 47:168–173)