Neurocognitive Endophenotypes for Eating Disorders: A Preliminary High-Risk Family Study

Edoardo Pappaianni, Manuela Barona, Gaelle E. Doucet, Christopher Clark, Sophia Frangou, Nadia Micali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Eating disorders (EDs) are psychiatric disorders with a neurobiological basis. ED-specific neuropsychological and brain characteristics have been identified, but often in individuals in the acute phase or recovered from EDs, precluding an understanding of whether they are correlates and scars of EDs vs. predisposing factors. Although familial high-risk (FHR) studies are available across other disorders, this study design has not been used in EDs. We carried out the first FMH study in EDs, investigating healthy offspring of women with EDs and controls. We preliminarily aimed to investigate ED-related neurocognitive and brain markers that could point to predisposing factors for ED. Sixteen girls at FHR for EDs and twenty control girls (age range: 8–15), completed neuropsychological tests assessing executive functions. Girls also underwent a resting-state fMRI scan to quantify functional connectivity (FC) within resting-state networks. Girls at FHR for EDs performed worse on a cognitive flexibility task compared with controls (F = 5.53, p = 0.02). Moreover, they showed different FC compared with controls in several resting-state networks (p < 0.05 FDR-corrected). Differences identified in cognitive flexibility and in FC are in line with those identified in individuals with EDs, strongly pointing to a role as potential endophenotypes of EDs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number99
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • eating disorders
  • endophenotypes
  • executive function
  • familial high-risk
  • high-risk studies
  • resting-state fMRI


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