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An investigation of decision making in anorexia nervosa using the Iowa Gambling Task and skin conductance measurements


The objective of this study is to determine (a) if decision making ability is impaired in patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) and in people with good recovery from AN and (b) whether any impairment in decision making is associated with alterations in skin conductance responses (SCR). Patients with AN (n = 29), healthy controls comparable in age and IQ (HC, n = 29), and women long term recovered from AN (n = 14), completed the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) while their SCR were measured. AN patients performed poorly in the IGT compared to the HC and to the recovered AN participants. AN patients had decreased anticipatory SCR prior to choosing cards and reduced SCR after losses compared to HC. IGT performance and the SCR of recovered AN participants did not differ from the HC. Decision making ability is impaired in AN. It is associated with a significantly attenuated SCR. Neither of these features are found in recovered AN. The association between impaired decision making ability and a decreased autonomic response is consistent with the predictions of the Somatic Marker Hypothesis. (JINS, 2007, 13, 635–641.)

Corresponding author
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Dr. Kate Tchanturia, PO59 Eating Disorders, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London SE5 8AF, UK. E-mail:
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Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society
  • ISSN: 1355-6177
  • EISSN: 1469-7661
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