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Anorexia nervosa (AN), at the stage of starvation and emaciation, is characterized by abnormalities in cognitive function, including memory performance. It is unclear whether memory impairment persists or is reversible following weight restoration, and whether memory function differs between AN subtypes. The aim of the present study was to investigate general memory performance in currently ill and fully weight-restored patients of different AN subtypes.
Memory performance was assessed using the Wechsler Memory Scale-Revised (WMS-R) in a total of 99 participants, including 34 restricting-type AN patients (AN-RESTR), 19 binge-eating/purging-type AN patients (AN-PURGE), 16 weight-restored AN patients (AN-W-R) and 30 healthy controls (CONTROL). Cognitive evaluation included a battery of standardized neuropsychological tasks for validating the findings on memory function.
Deficits were found with respect to immediate and delayed story recall in currently ill AN patients irrespective of AN subtype. These deficits persisted in weight-restored AN patients. Currently ill and weight-restored AN patients did not differ significantly from healthy controls with respect to working memory or other measures of neuropsychological functioning.
The findings suggest that impaired memory performance is either a stable trait characteristic or a scar effect of chronic starvation that may play a role in the development and/or persistence of the disorder.
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