Motor-based bodily self is selectively impaired in eating disorders

Giovanna Cristina Campione, Gianluigi Mansi, Alessandra Fumagalli, Beatrice Fumagalli, Simona Sottocornola, Massimo Molteni, Nadia Micali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Body representation disturbances in body schema (i.e. unconscious sensorimotor body representations for action) have been frequently reported in eating disorders. Recently, it has been proposed that body schema relies on adequate functioning of the motor system, which is strongly implicated in discriminating between one’s own and someone else’s body. The present study aimed to investigate the motor-based bodily self in eating disorders and controls, in order to examine the role of the motor system in body representation disturbances at the body schema level. Method: Female outpatients diagnosed with eating disorders (N = 15), and healthy controls (N = 18) underwent a hand laterality task, in which their own (self-stimuli) and someone else’s hands (other-stimuli) were displayed at different orientations. Participants had to mentally rotate their own hand in order to provide a laterality judgement. Group differences in motor-based bodily self-recognition—i.e. whether a general advantage occurred when implicitly processing self- vs. other-stimuli − were evaluated, by analyzing response times and accuracy by means of mixed ANOVAs. Results: Patients with eating disorders did not show a temporal advantage when mentally rotating self-stimuli compared to other-stimuli, as opposed to controls (F(1, 31) = 5.6, p = 0.02; eating disorders-other = 1092 ±256 msec, eating disorders-self = 1097±254 msec; healthy controls-other = 1239±233 msec, healthy controls -self = 1192±232 msec). Conclusion: This study provides initial indication that high-level motor functions might be compromised as part of body schema disturbances in eating disorders. Further larger investigations are required to test motor system abnormalities in the context of body schema disturbance in eating disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0187342
JournalPLoS One
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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