Intact sensory function in anorexia nervosa

Galit Goldzak-Kunik, Rina Friedman, Marselo Spitz, Ludmila Sandler, Micah Leshem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In anorexia nervosa (AN), taste and smell are believed to be anhedonic, hunger and pain are muted, and body-image distortion obscures wasting, which together facilitate self-starvation. However, the emphasis on these deficits may be biased because other sensory systems have been sparsely investigated. Objectives: Objectives of the study were to clarify whether these dysfunctions are specific or part of a pattern of sensory-perceptual deficits in AN patients and to test the gustatory senses dissociated from ingestion to clarify whether any deficit is sensory or affective. Design: In 15 adolescent, first-episode, hospitalized, restrictive AN patients and 15 matched healthy controls who responded to gustatory stimuli (intensity and hedonics of 5 basic tastes and tastes and odors of foods and nonfoods), size estimation (manual and oral judgment of size and shape, kinesthesia, and body size and esthetics), cold pain, and auditory and visual processing were compared. Results: AN patients did not differ on most tests, were better at odor recognition, were less successful in central auditory processing and oral assessment of size and shape, and may have been more sensitive to cold. Body-image dissatisfaction in AN patients was not related to dysfunctional size estimation. Conclusions: There is no systematic sensory-perceptual deficit in AN patients, and specifically, not in gustatory function. The few differences shown might be due to fear of food-related stimuli or comorbidity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-282
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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