Neurocognition in bulimic eating disorders: a systematic review

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Abstract

Objective:

The aim of this study was to review the literature on neurocognition comparing people with a bulimic eating disorder in the acute phase of the illness with healthy controls (HC).

Method:

The review follows the PRISMA (preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analysis) statement guidelines. Three databases (Medline, Web of Science, and Scopus) were searched combining the search terms ‘bulimic disorder’, ‘bulimia nervosa (BN)’, ‘binge-eating disorder (BED)’ with terms referring to cognitive domains (e.g. ‘executive functions’).

Results:

Thirty-seven studies on people with BN and four on people with BED were selected for review. Overall, sample sizes were relatively small [bulimic disorders: median and range 22 (12-83); HC: 27 (13-172)]. The diversity in methodology precluded a meta-analytical approach. People with a bulimic disorder did not present with a clear neurocognitive profile. Inclusion of salient, disorder-related stimuli (e.g. body weight/shape words) in the neurocognitive paradigms tended to generate differences between people with a bulimic disorder and HC.

Conclusion:

Neurocognition in bulimic eating disorders is under researched, and the available evidence is inconclusive. This review outlines strategies for further research in this area.

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