Lower Pattern Recognition Memory Scores in Anorexia Nervosa

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There is extensive evidence for volumetric reductions in the hippocampus in patients with anorexia nervosa (AN), however the impact on function is unclear. Pattern separation and recognition are hippocampus-dependent forms of learning thought to underlie stimulus discrimination.

The present study used the Mnemonic Similarity Task to investigate pattern separation and recognition for the first time in patients with AN (N = 46) and healthy controls (N = 56). An Analysis of Covariance examined between-group differences, controlling for age, antidepressant use and method of task delivery (remote vs. in person).

When controlling for covariates, pattern recognition memory scores were lower in the AN group with a medium effect size (d = 0.51). In contrast, there was a small effect whereby patients with AN had a greater pattern separation score than controls (d = 0.34), albeit this difference was not significant at the p = 0.05 threshold (p = 0.133). Furthermore, pattern separation and recognition memory abilities were not related to age, body mass index, eating disorder psychopathology or trait anxiety levels.

This preliminary study provides initial evidence for an imbalance in pattern separation and recognition abilities in AN, a hippocampus-dependent cognitive ability. Further studies should endeavour to investigate pattern separation and recognition performance further in AN, as well as investigate other hippocampus-dependent functions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 7 Apr 2021


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Pattern separation
  • Recognition memory
  • Mnemonic similarity task
  • Hippocampus


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