"Eating disorders and autism spectrum disorders are obviously not the same thing, but they do have some things in common," says Janet Treasure of the Institute of Psychiatry in London.
- Her team of researchers had already discovered that anorexia was associated with extreme attention to detail and a rigid, inflexible style of thinking ~ traits also associated with autism.
- They also found that 45 per cent of people with anorexia or bulimia have problems "set-shifting," or modifying their behavior in response to changing goals, compared to just 10 per cent of healthy people.
The idea is to train the brains of people with anorexia to be more flexible and to see the big picture as well as fine details, according to New Scientist. In doing so, researchers hope patients will be less inclined to obsess about body weight and calories and be better equipped to overcome their eating disorder in the long term, as well as gaining weight more immediately.The technique has already had some success. In a pilot study of 19 patients with anorexia, 17 said it helped them to think more flexibly. "They found the treatment helpful in reducing their perfectionist tendencies and it helped them to see things more holistically," Tchanturia says.
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