Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society



BRIEF COMMUNICATION

Set shifting deficit in anorexia nervosa


JOANNA E.  STEINGLASS  a1 c1 , B. TIMOTHY  WALSH  a1 and YAAKOV  STERN  a1 a2
a1 Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University, and The New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York
a2 Department of Neurology, College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University, New York, New York

Article author query
steinglass je   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
walsh bt   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
stern y   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 

Abstract

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a severe mental illness characterized in part by rigid thinking and ritualized behaviors involving eating and weight. Cognitive rigidity may play a role in the perpetuation of symptoms, and may provide information as to important brain-based abnormalities. Neuropsychological studies of patients with AN have shown cognitive dysfunction, but few have focused on cognitive flexibility. This study assessed set shifting in patients with AN, as a measure of cognitive flexibility. In this study, 15 patients with AN were compared with 11 healthy controls using a neuropsychological battery including the Wisconsin Card Sort Test (WCST). While patients with AN did not differ from controls on 5 measures of neuropsychological function, they made significantly more perseverative errors on the WCST, indicating a problem in set shifting. This finding suggests that patients with AN have a specific neurocognitive abnormality that may play a role in the development and persistence of this disorder. (JINS, 2006, 12, 431–435.)

(Received July 11 2005)
(Revised December 8 2005)
(Accepted December 9 2005)


Key Words: Wisconsin Card Sort Test; Cognition; Neuropsychology; Eating disorders; Cognitive flexibility; Neuropsychological tests.

Correspondence:
c1 Correspondence and requests to: Joanna Steinglass, M.D., Department of Psychiatry, New York State Psychiatric Institute, 1051 Riverside Drive, Unit #98, New York, NY 10032. E-mail: js1124@columbia.edu