Neuropsychological function in patients with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa

Authors

  • Siri Weider Cand. Psychol,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
    2. Specialised Unit for Eating Disorder Patients, Department of Psychiatry, Levanger Hospital, Health Trust Nord-Trøndelag, Levanger, Norway
    • Correspondence to: Siri Weider, Department of Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Dragvoll, 7491 Trondheim, Norway. E-mail: siri.weider@svt.ntnu.no

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  • Marit Sæbø Indredavik MD, PhD,

    1. Regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
    2. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, St. Olav's University Hospital, Trondheim, Norway
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  • Stian Lydersen PhD,

    1. Regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
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  • Knut Hestad PhD

    1. Department of Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
    2. Division of Mental Health, Innlandet Hospital Trust, Hamar, Norway
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  • Supported by The National Program for Integrated Clinical Specialist and PhD Training for Psychologists, Norway. [This program is a joint cooperation between the Universities of Bergen, Oslo, and Tromsø, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Trondheim), the Regional Health Authorities, and the Norwegian Psychological Association. The program is funded jointly by the Ministry of Education and Research and the Ministry of Health and Care Services.]

ABSTRACT

Objective

This study explored the neuropsychological performance of patients diagnosed with anorexia nervosa (AN) or bulimia nervosa (BN) compared with healthy controls (HCs). An additional aim was to investigate the effect of several possible mediators on the association between eating disorders (EDs) and cognitive function.

Method

Forty patients with AN, 39 patients with BN, and 40 HCs who were comparable in age and education were consecutively recruited to complete a standardized neuropsychological test battery covering the following cognitive domains: verbal learning and memory, visual learning and memory, speed of information processing, visuospatial ability, working memory, executive function, verbal fluency, attention/vigilance, and motor function.

Results

The AN group scored significantly below the HCs on eight of the nine measured cognitive domains. The BN group also showed inferior performance on six cognitive domains. After adjusting for possible mediators, the nadir body mass index (lowest lifetime BMI) and depressive symptoms explained all findings in the BN group. Although this adjustment reduced the difference between the AN and HC groups, the AN group still performed worse than the HCs regarding verbal learning and memory, visual learning and memory, visuospatial ability, working memory, and executive functioning.

Discussion

Patients with EDs scored below the HCs on several cognitive function measures, this difference being most pronounced for the AN group. The nadir BMI and depressive symptoms had strong mediating effects. Longitudinal studies are needed to identify the importance of weight restoration and treatment of depressive symptoms in the prevention of a possible cognitive decline. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2015; 48:397–405)

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