Author(s): Nico D, Daprati E, Nighoghossian N, Carrier E, Duhamel JR,
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) overestimate their size despite being severely underweight. Whether this misperception echoes an underlying emotional disturbance or also reflects a genuine body-representation deficit is debatable. Current measures inquire directly about subjective perception of body image, thus distinguishing poorly between top-down effects of emotions/attitudes towards the body and disturbances due to proprioceptive disorders/distorted body schema. Disorders of body representation also emerge following damage to the right parietal lobe. The possibility that parietal dysfunction might contribute to AN is suspected, based on the demonstrated association of spatial impairments, comparable to those found after parietal lesion, with this syndrome. METHOD: We used a behavioral task to compare body knowledge in severe anorexics (n=8), healthy volunteers (n=11) and stroke patients with focal damage to the left/right parietal lobe (n=4). We applied a psychophysical procedure based on the perception, in the dark, of an approaching visual stimulus that was turned off before reaching the observer. Participants had to predict whether the stimulus would have hit/missed their body, had it continued its linear motion. RESULTS: Healthy volunteers and left parietal patients estimated body boundaries very close to the real ones. Conversely, anorexics and right parietal patients underestimated eccentricity of their left body boundary. CONCLUSIONS: These findings are in line with the role the parietal cortex plays in developing and maintaining body representation, and support the possibility for a neuropsychological component in the pathogenesis of anorexia, offering alternative approaches to treatment of the disorder.
This article was published in Psychol Med
and referenced in Journal of Novel Physiotherapies