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  • Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, Volume 10, Issue 4
  • July 2004, pp. 513-520

Cognitive flexibility in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 July 2004

The aim of this study was to determine if there are differences in cognitive flexibility in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Fifty-three patients with an eating disorder (34 with anorexia nervosa and 19 with bulimia nervosa) and 35 healthy controls participated in the study. A battery of neuropsychological tests for cognitive flexibility was used, including Trail Making B, the Brixton Test, Verbal Fluency, the Haptic Illusion Test, a cognitive shifting task (CatBat) and a picture set test. Using exploratory factor analysis, four factors were obtained: 1: Simple Alternation; 2: Mental Flexibility; 3: Perseveration; and 4: Perceptual Shift. Patients with anorexia nervosa had abnormal scores on Factors 1 and 4. Patients with bulimia nervosa showed a different pattern, with significant impairments in Factors 2 and 4. These findings suggest that differential neuropsychological disturbance in the domain of mental flexibility/rigidity may underlie the spectrum of eating disorders. (JINS, 2004, 10, 513–520.)

Corresponding author
Reprint requests to: Kate Tchanturia, P059 Eating Disorders Research Unit, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, University of London, De Crespigny Park, London, SE5 8AF, UK. E-mail:
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Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society
  • ISSN: 1355-6177
  • EISSN: 1469-7661
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-international-neuropsychological-society
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