• anorexia nervosa;
  • adolescent;
  • set-shifting;
  • cognitive flexibility;
  • thinking style;
  • executive function



Set shifting inefficiencies in adults with anorexia nervosa (AN) are established, however the neurocognitive profile of children and adolescents with AN is less clear. This study aimed to provide a review of the literature.


Electronic databases were used to search for manuscripts.


Meta-analysis was performed on seven studies using two neuropsychological tests (Trail Making Task, TMT; Wisconsin Card Sorting Task, WCST). The mean difference in outcome between AN and healthy control (HC) groups was standardized by calculating Cohen's d. Meta-analysis of TMT studies showed a nonsignificant negative, pooled standardized mean difference of −0.005 (95% C.I. −0.416 to 0.406, z = 0.02, p = .98). WCST studies revealed a nonsignificant pooled effect size of d = 0.196 (95% C.I. −0.091–0.483, z = 1.34, p = .18). Studies which did not allow for a calculation of effect size typically showed a nonsignificant, worse performance by the AN groups.


The inefficiencies in set shifting that are apparent in the adult AN literature do not appear to be as pronounced in children. This may suggest that set shifting difficulties in adult AN are the result of starvation or indicative of longer duration of illness. Larger studies are needed to confirm these impressions. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2014; 47:394–399)