The neuropsychological profile of children at high risk of developing an eating disorder

R. Kothari, F. Solmi, J. Treasure, N. Micali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background There is a large body of evidence indicating that eating disorders (EDs) are characterized by particular neuropsychological profiles. We aimed to further explore whether impairments in neuropsychological functioning previously found in ED groups are present prior to onset, or are secondary to the disorder. Method This is the first study to explore neuropsychological functioning in children born to a mother with a lifetime ED, who are therefore at high risk of developing an ED, in a large cohort sample. We investigated intelligence and attention at age 8 years (n = 6201) and working memory (WM) and inhibition at age 10 years (6192) in children who are at high risk of developing an ED, compared to children who are not. Results The children of women with lifetime anorexia nervosa (AN) showed high full-scale and performance IQ, increased WM capacity, better visuo-spatial functioning, and decreased attentional control. The children of women with lifetime bulimia nervosa (BN) showed comparatively poor visuo-spatial functioning. Conclusions Our findings suggest that high intelligence, increased WM capacity and impaired attentional control might be intermediate phenotypes on the pathway between genetic vulnerability and the development of an ED.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1543-1554
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Medicine
Volume43
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Attention
  • eating disorder
  • inhibition
  • intelligence
  • working memory

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