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Functional MRI investigation of verbal working memory in adults with anorexia nervosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-218
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Psychiatry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2014

King's Authors


Literature regarding verbal working memory (vWM) in anorexia nervosa (AN) has been inconsistent due to a misunderstanding of the key components of vWM and introduction of confounding stimuli. Furthermore, there are no studies looking at how brain function in people with AN relates to vWM performance. The present study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with a letter n-back paradigm to study the effect of increasing vWM task difficulty on cortical functioning in the largest AN sample to date (n=31). Although the AN group had low BMI and higher anxious and depressive symptomology compared to age-matched controls (HC), there were no between-group differences in accuracy and speed at any task difficulty. fMRI data revealed no regions exhibiting significant differences in activation when groups were compared at each difficulty separately and no regions showing group x condition interaction. Although there was a trend towards lower accuracy as duration of illness increased, this was not correlated with activity in regions associated with vWM. These findings indicate that vWM in AN is as efficient and performed using the same cognitive strategy as HC, and that there may not be a need for therapies to pursue remediation of this particular neurocognitive faculty.

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