Body weight distortions in an auditory-driven body illusion in subclinical and clinical eating disorders

Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Previous studies suggest a stronger influence of visual signals on body image in individuals with eating disorders (EDs) than healthy controls; however, the influence of other exteroceptive sensory signals remains unclear. Here we used an illusion relying on auditory (exteroceptive) signals to manipulate body size/weight perceptions and investigated whether the mechanisms integrating sensory signals into body image are altered in subclinical and clinical EDs. Participants; footstep sounds were altered to seem produced by lighter or heavier bodies. Across two experiments, we tested healthy women assigned to three groups based on self-reported Symptomatology of EDs (SED), and women with Anorexia Nervosa (AN), and used self-report, body-visualization, and behavioural (gait) measures. As with visual bodily illusions, we predicted stronger influence of auditory signals, leading to an enhanced body-weight illusion, in people with High-SED and AN. Unexpectedly, High-SED and AN participants displayed a gait typical of heavier bodies and a widest/heaviest visualized body in the light's; footsteps condition. In contrast, Low-SED participants showed these patterns in the 'heavy'; footsteps condition. Self-reports did not show group differences. The results of this pilot study suggest disturbances in the sensory integration mechanisms, rather than purely visually-driven body distortions, in subclinical/clinical EDs, opening opportunities for the development of novel diagnostic/therapeutic tools.
mental body-representation, multisensory body perception, sound, eating disorders, technology for self-management
Bibliographic citation
Tajadura-Jiménez, A., Crucianelli, L., Zheng, R. et al. Body weight distortions in an auditory-driven body illusion in subclinical and clinical eating disorders. Sci Rep 12, 20031 (2022).