How Can Animal Models Inform the Understanding of Cognitive Inflexibility in Patients with Anorexia Nervosa?

Kaixin Huang, Claire J. Foldi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Deficits in cognitive flexibility are consistently seen in patients with anorexia nervosa (AN). This type of cognitive impairment is thought to be associated with the persistence of AN because it leads to deeply ingrained patterns of thought and behaviour that are highly resistant to change. Neurobiological drivers of cognitive inflexibility have some commonalities with the abnor-mal brain functional outcomes described in patients with AN, including disrupted prefrontal cortical function, and dysregulated dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitter systems. The activity-based anorexia (ABA) model recapitulates the key features of AN in human patients, including rapid weight loss caused by self-starvation and hyperactivity, supporting its application in investi-gating the cognitive and neurobiological causes of pathological weight loss. The aim of this review is to describe the relationship between AN, neural function and cognitive flexibility in human pa-tients, and to highlight how new techniques in behavioural neuroscience can improve the utility of animal models of AN to inform the development of novel therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2594
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


  • activity-based anorexia
  • animal models
  • anorexia nervosa
  • cognitive flexibility
  • dopamine
  • prefrontal cortex
  • serotonin

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