Motor inhibition and cognitive flexibility in eating disorder subtypes

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Anorexia Nervosa (AN) and Bulimia Nervosa (BN) are complex Eating Disorders (EDs). Even if are considered two different diagnostic categories, they share clinical relevant characteristics. The evaluation of neurocognitive functions, using standardized neuropsychological assessment, could be a interesting approach to better understand differences and similarities between diagnostic categories and clinical subtypes in EDs thus improving our knowledge of the pathophisiology of EDs spectrum. This study explored cognitive flexibility and motor inhibition in patients with AN considering both Restricter and Binge/Purge subtypes, patients with BN and healthy comparisons subjects (HC). Intra-Extra Dimentional Set shifting Test and Stop Signal Task, selected from CANTAB battery, were administered to analyzed set-shifting and motor inhibition respectively. AN patients showed a deficient motor inhibition compared to HC, while no evidence for impaired motor inhibition was found in BN patients; a significant relationship between commission errors in the Stop Signal Task and attentional impulsiveness was found. Moreover, no difference in set-shifting abilities was found comparing all clinician groups and HC. So our results indicated no cognitive impairment in these two cognitive functions in BN patients, while AN and BN showed different performances in motor inhibition. A similar cognitive profile was found in other obsessive compulsive spectrum disorders. Finally, the paper suggests a new interactive approach for the study of cognitive profile in psychiatric disorders; it might be more useful since it is more closely related to the executive functions complexity.

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