Altered Processing and Integration of Multisensory Bodily Representations and Signals in Eating Disorders: A Possible Path Toward the Understanding of Their Underlying Causes

Giuseppe Riva, Antonios Dakanalis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V) eating problems are the clinical core of eating disorders (EDs). However, the importance of shape and weight overvaluation symptoms in these disorders underlines the critical role of the experience of the body in the etiology of EDs. This article suggests that the transdiagnostic centrality of these symptoms in individuals with EDs may reflect a deficit in the processing and integration of multisensory bodily representations and signals. Multisensory body integration is a critical cognitive and perceptual process, allowing the individual to protect and extend her/his boundaries at both the homeostatic and psychological levels. To achieve this goal the brain integrates sensory data arriving from real-time multiple sensory modalities and internal bodily information with predictions made using the stored information about the body from conceptual, perceptual, and episodic memory. In this view the emotional, visual, tactile, proprioceptive and interoceptive deficits reported by many authors in individuals with EDs may reflect a broader impairment in multisensory body integration that affects the individual's abilities: (a) to identify the relevant interoceptive signals that predict potential pleasant (or aversive) consequences; and (b) to modify/correct the autobiographical allocentric (observer view) memories of body related events (self-objectified memories). Based on this view, the article also proposes a strategy, based on new technologies (i.e., virtual reality and brain/body stimulation), for using crossmodal associations to reactivate and correct the multisensory body integration processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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