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Selective cognitive empathy deficit in adolescents with restrictive anorexia nervosa

Authors Calderoni S, Fantozzi P, Maestro S, Brunori E, Narzisi A, Balboni G, Muratori F

Received 20 June 2013

Accepted for publication 10 July 2013

Published 16 October 2013 Volume 2013:9 Pages 1583—1589


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Sara Calderoni,1 Pamela Fantozzi,1 Sandra Maestro,1 Elena Brunori,1 Antonio Narzisi,1 Giulia Balboni,2 Filippo Muratori1,3

1Department of Child Neurology and Psychiatry, IRCCS Stella Maris Foundation, 2Department of Surgery, Medical, Molecular and Critical Area Pathology, University of Pisa, 3Department of Developmental Medicine, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy

Background: A growing, but conflicting body of literature suggests altered empathic abilities in subjects with anorexia nervosa-restricting type (AN-R). This study aims to characterize the cognitive and affective empathic profiles of adolescents with purely AN-R.
Methods: As part of a standardized clinical and research protocol, the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), a valid and reliable self-reported instrument to measure empathy, was administered to 32 female adolescents with AN-R and in 41 healthy controls (HC) comparisons, matched for age and gender. Correlational analyses were performed to evaluate the links between empathy scores and psychopathological measures.
Results: Patients scored significantly lower than HC on cognitive empathy (CE), while they did not differ from controls on affective empathy (AE). The deficit in CE was not related to either disease severity nor was it related to associated psychopathology.
Conclusion: These results, albeit preliminary, suggest that a dysfunctional pattern of CE capacity may be a stable trait of AN-R that should be taken into account not only for the clinical management, but also in preventive and therapeutic intervention.

Keywords: anorexia nervosa-restricting type, cognitive empathy, affective empathy, female adolescents, Interpersonal Reactivity Index

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