Associations between neural correlates of visual stimulus processing and set-shifting in ill and recovered women with anorexia nervosa

Psychiatry Res Neuroimaging. 2016 Sep 30;255:35-42. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2016.07.004. Epub 2016 Jul 9.


Women ill with anorexia nervosa (AN) have been shown to exhibit altered cognitive functioning, particularly poor set-shifting (SS). In this study, we investigated whether brain activation in frontal and parietal regions during visual stimulus processing correlates with SS ability. Women currently ill with AN (AN; N=14), recovered women (REC; N=14) and healthy controls (HC; N=15), viewed alternating blocks of food and non-food pictures during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The Berg's Card Sorting Task was completed outside the scanner to measure SS. A priori regions of interest (ROIs) were defined in frontal and parietal regions. The activation during visual stimulus processing in several ROIs correlated positively with poor SS ability in REC, particularly in the left dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC). The correlations with poor SS ability were opposite in AN patients, particularly in the right dACC. These findings underscore that addressing heightened levels of cognitive control associated with higher frontal activation could reduce cognitive inflexibility in recovered women. In AN, greater activation in frontal and parietal regions might be necessary to perform at normal levels during various tasks. Thus, weight restoration could be necessary for AN patients prior to addressing cognitive inflexibility.

Keywords: Cognitive inflexibility; Food viewing; Non-food viewing.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / diagnostic imaging
  • Anorexia Nervosa / physiopathology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Food
  • Gyrus Cinguli / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Parietal Lobe / diagnostic imaging*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Set, Psychology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult