Too fat to fit through the door: first evidence for disturbed body-scaled action in anorexia nervosa during locomotion

PLoS One. 2013 May 29;8(5):e64602. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064602. Print 2013.


To date, research on the disturbed experience of body size in Anorexia Nervosa (AN) mainly focused on the conscious perceptual level (i.e. body image). Here we investigated whether these disturbances extend to body schema: an unconscious, action-related representation of the body. AN patients (n = 19) and healthy controls (HC; n = 20) were compared on body-scaled action. Participants walked through door-like openings varying in width while performing a diversion task. AN patients and HC differed in the largest opening width for which they started rotating their shoulders to fit through. AN patients started rotating for openings 40% wider than their own shoulders, while HC started rotating for apertures only 25% wider than their shoulders. The results imply abnormalities in AN even at the level of the unconscious, action oriented body schema. Body representation disturbances in AN are thus more pervasive than previously assumed: They do not only affect (conscious) cognition and perception, but (unconscious) actions as well.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / physiopathology*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Body Image / psychology
  • Body Size / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Rotation
  • Shoulder / physiology
  • Size Perception / physiology*
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.