Sensory processing in anorexia nervosa

Posted 19/02/2019


This study is exploring whether people with anorexia nervosa process sensory information (for example, taste or smell) differently to healthy controls, and whether this is related to autistic traits.

What is the purpose of this research?

People with anorexia nervosa are more likely to be on the autistic spectrum compared to the general population. One possible relationship between these two conditions is sensory processing: some autistic people experience sensory differences, such as an aversion to certain tastes or smells, which can make eating difficult. However, the research on sensory processing in anorexia has yielded mixed results. The purpose of this study is to explore sensory processing in anorexia, whilst also considering the potential role of the heightened autistic traits seen in this population.

Who can take part?

We are recruiting people who have a current diagnosis of anorexia nervosa. We are including both men and women. To take part you must meet the following criteria:

  • Aged between 18-55 years
  • Fluency in English
  • Certain food allergies (please contact the researcher for further information)
  • No current psychotic disorder, severe medical disorder or brain injury

You also must be able to travel to Denmark Hill in South London.

What does the study involve?

The study will take between 2hrs, and 2hrs and 30 minutes. If you decide to take part in the study, the researcher will conduct a clinical interview with you to assess the presence of autistic traits. This interview will be video recorded. You will then be asked to fill out some questionnaires. The researcher will then test your ability to track your own heartbeat, your sense of smell, and your sense of taste. The taste and smell experiments do not involve contact with, or consuming, actual food. The researcher will also take your height and weight (but you will have the option of being blind weighed).

All data will be anonymised. You will be compensated £20 for your time and travel.

How can someone take part?

If you are interested in taking part, or if you have any questions, please contact Emma Kinnaird (details below). You will be sent some further information and, if you still wish to take part, a time will be arranged for you to attend.

Emma Kinnaird
PhD student, King’s College London

King's College London