Visuo-tactile shape perception in women with Anorexia Nervosa and healthy women with and without body concerns

G. Risso, R. M. Martoni, S. Erzegovesi, L. Bellodi, G. Baud-Bovy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A key feature of Anorexia Nervosa is body image disturbances, the study of which has focused mainly on visual and attitudinal aspects, did not always contain homogeneous groups of patients, and/or did not evaluate body shape concerns of the control group. In this study, we used psychophysical methods to investigate the visual, tactile and bimodal perception of elliptical shapes in a group of patients with Anorexia Nervosa (AN) restricting type and two groups of healthy participants, which differed from each other by the presence of concerns about their own bodies. We used an experimental paradigm designed to test the hypothesis that the perceptual deficits in AN reflect an impairment in multisensory integration. The results showed that the discrimination thresholds of AN patients are larger than those of the two control groups. While all participants overestimated the width of the ellipses, this distortion was more pronounced in AN patients and, to a lesser extent, healthy women concerned about their bodies. All groups integrated visual and tactile information similarly in the bimodal conditions, which does not support the multi-modal integration impairment hypothesis. We interpret these results within an integrated model of perceptual deficits of Anorexia Nervosa based on a model of somatosensation that posits a link between object tactile perception and Mental Body Representations. Finally, we found that the participants’ perceptual abilities were correlated with their clinical scores. This result should encourage further studies that aim at evaluating the potential of perceptual indexes as a tool to support clinical practices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107635
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Body representation
  • Multisensory integration
  • Shape perception
  • Somatosensory system
  • Touch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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