Exploring multisensory integration of non-naturalistic sounds on body perception in young females with eating disorders symptomatology: a study protocol
BACKGROUND: Bodily illusions can be used to investigate the experience of being in a body by manipulating the underlying processes of multisensory integration. Research suggests that people with eating disorders (EDs) may have impairments in visual, interoceptive, proprioceptive, and tactile bodily perception. Furthermore, people with EDs also show abnormalities in integrating multisensory visuo-tactile and visual-auditory signals related to the body, which may contribute to the development of body image disturbances. Visuo-auditory integration abnormalities have been observed also in people with subthreshold ED symptomatology. However, it remains unclear whether these impairments are specific to bodily signals or if they extend to any auditory signals. METHODS: We will recruit 50 participants (aged 18-24; females assigned at birth) with ED symptomatology (subthreshold group) and 50 control participants. The Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire will be administered to screen for ED symptomatology and divide the sample into two groups accordingly (control and subthreshold group using a clinical cut-off score of 2.8). The strength of both illusions will be measured implicitly with estimations of body part position and size, and explicitly with self-report questionnaires. As a secondary aim, regression analysis will be run to test the predictive role of susceptibility for both illusions on interoceptive body awareness (measured by the Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness Scale) and sensory-processing sensitivity (measured by the Highly Sensitive Person Scale). DISCUSSION: Our study may contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms underlying body image disturbances. The results may pave the way for novel clinical interventions targeting early symptoms prior to the development of the disorder in young females.