Background: Anorexia Nervosa (AN) has a mortality rate among the highest of any mental illness, though the factors involved in the condition remain unclear. Recently, the potential neurobiological underpinnings of the condition have become of increasing interest. Saccadic eye movement tasks have proven useful in our understanding of the neurobiology of some other psychiatric illnesses as they utilise known brain regions, but to date have not been examined in AN. The aim of this study was to investigate whether individuals with AN differ from healthy individuals in performance on a range of saccadic eye movements tasks.
Methods: 24 females with AN and 25 healthy individuals matched for age, gender and premorbid intelligence participated in the study. Participants were required to undergo memory-guided and self-paced saccade tasks, and an interleaved prosaccade/antisaccade/no-go saccade task while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Results: AN participants were found to make prosaccades of significantly shorter latency than healthy controls. AN participants also made an increased number of inhibitory errors on the memory-guided saccade task. Groups did not significantly differ in antisaccade, no-go saccade or self-paced saccade performance, or fMRI findings.
Discussion: The results suggest a potential role of GABA in the superior colliculus in the psychopathology of AN.