Deakin University
Norton et al. 2024 BMCPsychiatry.pdf (1.8 MB)

Overlap of eating disorders and neurodivergence: the role of inhibitory control

Download (1.8 MB)
Version 3 2024-06-28, 06:36
Version 2 2024-06-21, 01:38
Version 1 2024-06-20, 06:48
journal contribution
posted on 2024-06-28, 06:36 authored by Bethany Norton, Jade SheenJade Sheen, Lewis Burns, Peter EnticottPeter Enticott, Matthew Fuller-TyszkiewiczMatthew Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, Melissa Kirkovski
Abstract Background Difficulties with inhibitory control have been identified in eating disorders (EDs) and neurodevelopmental disorders (NDs; including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder), and there appear to be parallels between the expression of these impairments. It is theorised that impairments in inhibitory control within NDs may represent a unique vulnerability for eating disorders (EDs), and this same mechanism may contribute to poorer treatment outcomes. This review seeks to determine the state of the literature concerning the role of inhibitory control in the overlap of EDs and neurodivergence. Method A scoping review was conducted to summarise extant research, and to identify gaps in the existing knowledge base. Scopus, Medline, PsycInfo, Embase, and ProQuest were systematically searched. Studies were included if the study measured traits of ADHD or autism, and symptoms of ED, and required participants to complete a performance task measure of inhibitory control. Where studies included a cohort with both an ND and ED, these results had to be reported separately from cohorts with a singular diagnosis. Studies were required to be published in English, within the last 10 years. Results No studies explored the relationship between autism and EDs using behavioural measures of inhibitory control. Four studies exploring the relationship between ADHD and EDs using behavioural measures of inhibitory control met selection criteria. These studies showed a multifaceted relationship between these conditions, with differences emerging between domains of inhibitory control. ADHD symptoms predicted poorer performance on measures of response inhibition in a non-clinical sample; this was not replicated in clinical samples, nor was there a significant association with EDs. Both ADHD and ED symptoms are associated with poor performance on attentional control measures; where these diagnoses were combined, performance was worse than for those with a singular diagnosis of ADHD. This was not replicated when compared to those with only ED diagnoses. Conclusion Impairments in attentional control may represent a unique vulnerability for the development of an ED and contribute to poor treatment outcomes. Further research is needed to explore the role of inhibitory control in EDs, ADHD and autism, including the use of both self-report and behavioural measures to capture the domains of inhibitory control.



BMC Psychiatry



Article number





London, Eng.

Open access

  • Yes







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal