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Anorexia May Contribute to Categorical Learning Deficiencies

Anorexia can affect workEveryone thinks that they have some basic knowledge of anorexia nervosa, but experts know that it’s a complex, multi-layered disorder that goes beyond just restricting caloric intake. Megan E. Shott, who conducts research at the University of Colorado’s Department of Psychology, found that individuals that face anorexia nervosa could also have issues with cognitive deficits and neurological changes. It’s important to note these details because they could effect which methods of recovery could be more successful.

In her study, Shott analyzed 21 women with anorexia nervosa and 19 without. What she found is that when each subject was challenged with two tasks, the women with anorexia nervosa performed far worse in each task. Her study sought to find which specific types of learning were effected by anorexia nervosa. The challenges included categorization, task management and more. “These results suggest that difficulties in cognitive functioning in [anorexia nervosa] may be more specific than an impairment in general intellectual functioning, and raises the possibility that [anorexia nervosa] might impact only certain neural systems,” said Shott.

This doesn’t mean that women with anorexia don’t have high IQs. In fact, some of Scott’s subjects had very high IQs but exhibited the same deficits in cognitive functioning due to their challenges with anorexia nervosa. The control group, which was the 19 women without anorexia, performed each task without some of the issues that were prominent in the other group of women.

Another discovery that came through Shott’s study was the differences in temperament and personality characteristics in women with anorexia nervosa. During the challenges, those with anorexia were more easily distracted and had sensitivity to punishment and failure. Shott believes that these findings provide details into the theory that those with anorexia nervosa have significant cognitive deficiencies in terms of categorization, which was one of the challenge tasks in the study, and punishment or negative reinforcement. Not only did the Shott’s study show that there could be some improvements made to individuals’ treatment programs it suggests that future studies may find further cognitive challenges in those with anorexia nervosa

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