Eating disorder (ED) variants characterized by "binge-eating/purging" symptoms differ from "restricting-only" variants along diverse clinical dimensions, but few studies have compared people with these different eating-disorder phenotypes on measures of neurocognitive function and brain activation. We tested the performances of 19 women with "restricting-only" eating syndromes and 27 with "binge-eating/purging" variants on a modified n-back task, and used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine task-induced brain activations in frontal regions of interest. When compared with "binge-eating/purging" participants, "restricting-only" participants showed superior performance. Furthermore, in an intermediate-demand condition, "binge-eating/purging" participants showed significantly less event-related activation than did "restricting-only" participants in a right posterior prefrontal region spanning Brodmann areas 6-8-a region that has been linked to planning of motor responses, working memory for sequential information, and management of uncertainty. Our findings suggest that working memory is poorer in eating-disordered individuals with binge-eating/purging behaviors than in those who solely restrict food intake, and that observed performance differences coincide with interpretable group-based activation differences in a frontal region thought to subserve planning and decision making.
Keywords: Anorexia; Binge eating; Bulimia; Eating disorders; Executive function; Functional neuroimaging.
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