Neuropsychological Learning Deficits as Predictors of Treatment Outcome in Patients with Eating Disorders

Nutrients. 2021 Jun 23;13(7):2145. doi: 10.3390/nu13072145.


Eating disorders (EDs) are severe psychiatric illnesses that require individualized treatments. Decision-making deficits have been associated with EDs. Decision-making learning deficits denote a lack of strategies to elaborate better decisions that can have an impact on recovery and response to treatment. This study used the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) to investigate learning differences related to treatment outcome in EDs, comparing between patients with a good and bad treatment outcome and healthy controls. Likewise, the predictive role of impaired learning performance on therapy outcome was explored. Four hundred twenty-four participants (233 ED patients and 191 healthy controls) participated in this study. Decision making was assessed using the Iowa Gambling Task before any psychological treatment. All patients received psychological therapy, and treatment outcome was evaluated at discharge. Patients with bad outcome did not show progression in the decision-making task as opposed to those with good outcome and the healthy control sample. Additionally, learning performance in the decision-making task was predictive of their future outcome. The severity of learning deficits in decision making may serve as a predictor of the treatment. These results may provide a starting point of how decision-making learning deficits are operating as dispositional and motivational factors on responsiveness to treatment in EDs.

Keywords: decision making; eating disorders; learning; treatment outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Gambling
  • Humans
  • Learning Curve
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome