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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 07 September 2010 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00036

Altered social reward and attention in anorexia nervosa

  • 1 Department of Neurobiology, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and Center for Neuroeconomics, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA
  • 2 Department of Neuroscience, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • 3 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

Dysfunctional social reward and social attention are present in a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders including autism, schizophrenia, and social anxiety. Here we show that similar social reward and attention dysfunction are present in anorexia nervosa (AN), a disorder defined by avoidance of food and extreme weight loss. We measured the implicit reward value of social stimuli for female participants with (n = 11) and without (n = 11) AN using an econometric choice task and also tracked gaze patterns during free viewing of images of female faces and bodies. As predicted, the reward value of viewing bodies varied inversely with observed body weight for women with anorexia but not control women, in contrast with their explicit ratings of attractiveness. Surprisingly, women with AN, unlike control women, did not find female faces rewarding and avoided looking at both the face and eyes – independent of observed body weight. These findings suggest comorbid dysfunction in the neural circuits mediating gustatory and social reward in anorexia nervosa.

Keywords: eating disorders, social, bulimia

Citation: Watson KK, Werling DM, Zucker NL and Platt ML (2010) Altered social reward and attention in anorexia nervosa. Front. Psychology 1:36. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00036

This article was submitted to Frontiers in Psychopathology, a specialty of Frontiers in Psychology.

Received: 26 May 2010; Paper pending published: 02 July 2010;
Accepted: 07 July 2010; Published online: 07 September 2010

Edited by:

Xavier Noel, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium

Reviewed by:

Antoine Bechara, McGill University, Canada
Renata Cserjesi, University of Groningen, Netherlands

Copyright: © 2010 Watson, Werling, Zucker and Platt. This is an open-access article subject to an exclusive license agreement between the authors and the Frontiers Research Foundation, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Karli K. Watson, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University, 450 Research Dr., LSRC Room B-353, Durham, NC 27708, USA. e-mail: karlikiiko@gmail.com