Event Abstract

Social and Emotional Processing as a Behavioural Endophenotype in Eating Disorders: A Pilot Investigation in Twins

  • 1 University College London, United Kingdom
  • 2 University of Melbourne, Australia
  • 3 King's College London, United Kingdom

Objectives: Emotional processing difficulties are potential risk markers for eating disorders that are also present post recovery. The aim of this study was to examine these traits in female twins with eating disorders.
Methods: The reading the mind in the eyes task, emotional stroop task and the difficulties in emotion regulation scale were administered to 112 twins [n=51 met lifetime DSM-IV eating disorder criteria (anorexia nervosa n=26; bulimic disorders n=24), n=19 unaffected cotwins and n=42 control twins]. Generalised estimating equations (GEE) compared probands with unaffected cotwins and control twins and within pair correlations were calculated for clinical monozygotic (MZ, n=50) and dizygotic twins (DZ, n=20).
Results: Emotion recognition difficulties were greater in twins with anorexia nervosa than their unaffected co-twin and the control twin group (d=-0.3; p<0.05). An attentional bias to social threat was most pronounced in twins with bulimic symptomatology (d=0.7; p<0.05) and present in their unaffected twin siblings with a medium effect size, suggestive of a familial trait. Evidence for a possible genetic basis was highest for emotion recognition and attentional biases to social stimuli.
Conclusion: Emotion recognition difficulties and sensitivity to social threat appear to be endophenotypes associated with eating disorders. However, the low power particularly between subgroups means that these findings are tentative and need further replication.


This research was in part funded by a Medical Research Council Scholarship awarded to NK. IK was supported by a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship within the 7th European Community Framework Programme (2009-254774).The authors acknowledge training/support from the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. We would like to thank the Department of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology Kings College London (www.twinsuk.ac.uk) for their help with recruiting the twins. Last, we are most grateful to all the twins and thank them for their participation.


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PMID: 22468644

Keywords: emotional processing, endophenotype, Eating Disorder, Twins, heritability

Conference: ACNS-2012 Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Conference, Brisbane, Australia, 29 Nov - 2 Dec, 2012.

Presentation Type: Poster Presentation

Topic: Emotion and Social

Citation: Kanakam N, Krug I, Raoult C, Collier D and Treasure J (2012). Social and Emotional Processing as a Behavioural Endophenotype in Eating Disorders: A Pilot Investigation in Twins. Conference Abstract: ACNS-2012 Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Conference. doi: 10.3389/conf.fnhum.2012.208.00155

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Received: 12 Oct 2012; Published Online: 17 Nov 2012.

* Correspondence: Dr. Isabel Krug, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, isabel.krug@unimelb.edu.au