Visoconstructive Deficits and Risk of Developing Eating Disorders

By Alvarado-Sánchez, Nayelli; Silva-Gutiérrez, Cecilia et al. | The Spanish Journal of Psychology, July 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Visoconstructive Deficits and Risk of Developing Eating Disorders


Alvarado-Sánchez, Nayelli, Silva-Gutiérrez, Cecilia, Salvador-Cruz, Judith, The Spanish Journal of Psychology


In order to explore if neuropsychological deficits on visual constructional ability could be related to risk eating behaviors, a total of 102 women were evaluated, 51 of the participants had been formally diagnosed with eating disorders and 51 did not. All participants were given the Eating Attitude Test (EAT-40), The Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure and The Tower of London Task. Results revealed the existence of a deficit on visual integration similar to those observed in other studies with diagnosed patients. The group at risk showed a comparatively reduced ability on the tasks and the control participants' execution was on the average. Findings revealed the need for designing studies to evaluate neuropsychological processes as possible risk factors which predict eating disorders.

Keywords: eating disorders, visual constructional ability, neuropsychology, anorexia, bulimia.

A fin de explorar si las deficiencias neuropsicológicas en el proceso visoconstructivo están relacionadas con conductas alimentarias de riesgo, se evaluó un total de 102 mujeres, 51 presentaban conductas de riesgo y 51 no las presentaban. A todas las participantes se les aplicó el Cuestionario de Actitudes hacia la Alimentación (EAT-40); la Figura Compleja de Rey-Osterrieth y la Torre de Londres. Los resultados revelaron la existencia de un déficit en la integración visual similar al observado en otros estudios realizados con pacientes diagnosticadas. El grupo con riesgo mostró una reducción en tales habilidades en comparación con el desempeño de los participantes sin riesgo, mismo que estuvo dentro del promedio. Los hallazgos revelan la necesidad de diseñar estudios que evalúen los procesos neuropsicológicos como posibles factores predictores de los trastornos de la conducta alimentaria.

Palabras clave: trastornos de la alimentación, visoconstrucción, neuropsicología, anorexia, bulimia.

In recent years, studies published about eating disorders have become more and more frequent in scientific literature, yet in spite of the scientific community's attempts to create effective preventative forms of treatment, the prevalence of these disorders is on the rise. Due to the fact that eating disorders are caused by multiple factors, the variables involved during the onset of an eating disorder, and the relationships established between those variables, must be studied extensively (Silva-Gutiérrez & Sánchez-Sosa, 2006). There is, however, one factor that stands out. It has been analyzed in an array of studies, yet it has rarely been considered as a potential cause of eating disorders: one's neuropsychological state prior to developing the pathology.

Sufficient evidence exists to show that perceiving one's body as "fatter" than it is in reality drives patients to restrict their food intake (Toro & Vilardell, 1989; hsu, 1990; Raich, 1994; Wadden, Foster, Srwer, Anderson, Gladis, Sanderson, Letchak, Berkowitz, & Phelan, 2004)., and that among the diagnostic criteria for having an eating disorder, overestimation of one's body weight holds an important place. Although much is known about this subject, very few studies attempt to explain the overestimation of body weight as being a perceptual alteration. It could involve difficulty with accurately estimating the size of one's body and could impede upon one's ability to develop an accurate, healthy body image.

In light of this, it is undeniably important that research has to consider to find out the alteration of body image as a fundamental, perceptual failure. Those who suffer from eating disorders find the dimensions of their bodies profoundly displeasing. They perceive their bodies as large and disproportionate, either entirely or in particular regions, and that dissatisfaction is at the root of eating disorder patients' constant struggle to maintain a normal body weight (Garcia-Camba, 2001; Wadden, et al., 2004). It causes people to adopt restrictive diets, and in little time, that becomes the foundation of the maintenance of the disorder. …

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