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Impaired configural body processing in anorexia nervosa: Evidence from the body inversion effect

Authors

  • Cosimo Urgesi,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Human Sciences, University of Udine, Italy
    2. IRCCS Scientific Institute “E. Medea”, Pordenone, Italy
    • Correspondence should be addressed to Cosimo Urgesi, Department of Human Sciences, University of Udine, Via Margreth, 3, I-33100 Udine, Italy (email: cosimo.urgesi@uniud.it) or Paolo Brambilla, Department of Experimental and Clinical Medical Sciences, Piazzale Kolbe 3, I-33100, Udine, Italy (email: paolo.brambilla@uniud.it).

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  • Livia Fornasari,

    1. Department of Experimental and Clinical Medical Sciences, Inter-University Centre for Behavioural Neurosciences (ICBN), University of Udine, Italy
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  • Francesca Canalaz,

    1. Department of Experimental and Clinical Medical Sciences, Inter-University Centre for Behavioural Neurosciences (ICBN), University of Udine, Italy
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  • Laura Perini,

    1. Department of Experimental and Clinical Medical Sciences, Inter-University Centre for Behavioural Neurosciences (ICBN), University of Udine, Italy
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  • Silvana Cremaschi,

    1. Child Neuropsychiatric Service, Udine, Italy
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  • Laura Faleschini,

    1. Child Neuropsychiatric Service, Udine, Italy
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  • Erica Zappoli Thyrion,

    1. Department of Mental Health, Eating Disorder Service, Udine, Italy
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  • Martina Zuliani,

    1. Department of Mental Health, Eating Disorder Service, Udine, Italy
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  • Matteo Balestrieri,

    1. Department of Experimental and Clinical Medical Sciences, Inter-University Centre for Behavioural Neurosciences (ICBN), University of Udine, Italy
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  • Franco Fabbro,

    1. Department of Human Sciences, University of Udine, Italy
    2. IRCCS Scientific Institute “E. Medea”, Pordenone, Italy
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  • Paolo Brambilla

    Corresponding author
    1. IRCCS Scientific Institute “E. Medea”, Pordenone, Italy
    2. Department of Experimental and Clinical Medical Sciences, Inter-University Centre for Behavioural Neurosciences (ICBN), University of Udine, Italy
    • Correspondence should be addressed to Cosimo Urgesi, Department of Human Sciences, University of Udine, Via Margreth, 3, I-33100 Udine, Italy (email: cosimo.urgesi@uniud.it) or Paolo Brambilla, Department of Experimental and Clinical Medical Sciences, Piazzale Kolbe 3, I-33100, Udine, Italy (email: paolo.brambilla@uniud.it).

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Abstract

Patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) suffer from severe disturbances of body perception. It is unclear, however, whether such disturbances are linked to specific alterations in the processing of body configurations with respect to the local processing of body part details. Here, we compared a consecutive sample of 12 AN patients with a group of 12 age-, gender- and education-matched controls using an inversion effect paradigm requiring the visual discrimination of upright and inverted pictures of whole bodies, faces and objects. The AN patients presented selective deficits in the discrimination of upright body stimuli, which requires configural processing. Conversely, patients and controls showed comparable abilities in the discrimination of inverted bodies, which involves only detail-based processing, and in the discrimination of both upright and inverted faces and objects. Importantly, the body inversion effect negatively correlated with the persistence scores at the Temperament and Character Inventory, which evaluates increased tendency to convert a signal of punishment into a signal of reinforcement. These results suggest that the deficits of configural processing in AN patients may be associated with their obsessive worries about body appearance and to the excessive attention to details that characterizes their general perceptual style.

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