Objectives: Binge-eating disorder (BED) has been associated with cognitive impairment, including on measures of impulsivity, but it is not clear in prior literature whether these deficits may have been associated with obesity, rather than BED per se. Impulsivity may play a role in predisposing people towards BED as well as in the chronicity of symptoms. The aim of this study was to examine cognitive functions between BED and healthy controls matched for age, gender, and body mass indices.
Methods: Individuals with BED and healthy controls were recruited from the general community using media advertisements. After providing informed consent, study participants completed a clinical interview and computerised neuropsychological testing. Group differences were analysed.
Results: Groups did not differ significantly on age, gender, education levels, or body mass indices. The BED group (N = 17) exhibited significantly impaired stop-signal response inhibition (Stop-Signal Task) and executive planning (Stockings of Cambridge Task) compared to healthy controls (N = 17). Spatial working memory and set-shifting were intact.
Discussion: BED appears to be associated with motor disinhibition and impaired executive planning even controlling for obesity. Longitudinal work is needed to clarify whether motor impulsivity predisposes people to BED, and/or contributes to persistence of symptoms over time.
Binge-eating disorder is common, under-recognised, and associated with untoward physical and health sequelae.
The neurobiological basis of binge-eating disorder is unclear; cognitive testing may offer insights.
Many prior cognitive studies have not controlled for potential confounds, especially group differences in body mass indices (BMI). Obesity in itself has been linked with cognitive dysfunction.
Here, we compared cognition between people with binge-eating disorder and controls, matched for BMI and other measures.
Binge-eating disorder was associated with impaired response inhibition and executive planning.
These results inform neurobiological models of binge-eating disorder and may suggest new treatment targets for this condition.