Women with Anorexia Nervosa do not show altered tactile localization compared to healthy controls

Psychiatry Res. 2018 Sep;267:446-454. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2018.06.007. Epub 2018 Jun 20.


Body image disturbance is a key symptom of Anorexia Nervosa (AN). Previous studies found that women with AN overestimate their body size in comparison with healthy controls (HC), at least for unimodal measures involving either only visual input (e.g. distorted photographs technique) or only tactile input (e.g. tactile distance tasks). Distorted body representations are hypothesized to cause this misperception in AN. We here tested whether this overestimation remains present in a novel one-point-localization (OPL) task involving the mapping of a tactile stimulus onto a visual image. Two experiments compared the ability of 27 women with AN and 40 HC to accurately localize a tactile stimulus on a live image of their body. Women with AN and HC did not differ in their performance. Instead, participants in both groups showed systematic distortions in their localization performance. This study suggests that the mapping of a tactile stimulus does not involve a distorted body representation in women with AN compared to HC.

Keywords: Body image disturbance; Body representations; Body size estimation; Tactile mapping.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / physiopathology*
  • Body Image*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Touch Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult