Studie: Improving emotion recognition in anorexia nervosa: An experimental proof-of-concept study

Int Journ Eat Disorders Volume53, Issue6; June 2020; Pages 945-953

Mira A. Preis, Katja Schlegel, Linda Stoll, Maximilian Blomberg, Hagen Febry (geb. Schmidt), Wally Wünsch-Leiteritz, Andreas Leiteritz, Timo Brockmeyer



Previous research has found increasing evidence for difficulties in emotion recognition ability (ERA) and social cognition in anorexia nervosa (AN), and recent models consider these factors to contribute to the development and maintenance of the disorder. However, there is a lack of experimental studies testing this hypothesis. Therefore, the present proof-of-concept study examined whether ERA can be improved by a single session of a computerized training in AN, and whether this has short-term effects on eating disorder symptoms.


Forty inpatients (22.20 ± 7.15 years) with AN were randomly assigned to receive a single session of computerized training of ERA (TERA) or a sham training (training the recognition of different types of clouds). ERA, self-reported eating disorder symptoms, and body mass index (BMI) were assessed within 3 days before and after training.


After training, both groups showed improved ERA, reduced self-reported eating disorder symptoms, and an increased BMI. As compared to patients in the control group, patients who received TERA showed greater improvements in ERA and self-reported eating disorder symptoms.


ERA can be effectively trained in patients with AN. Moreover, short-term improvements in self-reported eating disorder symptoms provide tentative support for the hypothesis that difficulties in ERA contribute to the maintenance of AN, and that specific trainings of ERA hold promise as an additional component in AN treatment. Future studies are needed to replicate these findings in larger samples, and to investigate long-term effects and transfer into real-world settings.