Abstract To investigate the prefrontal hemodynamic response during a cognitive task in childhood anorexia nervosa (AN), we measured regional cerebral blood volume changes in terms of changes in hemoglobin concentrations [Hb], using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). Sixteen females with AN (mean age 14.2 years old) and 12 age-matched healthy female control subjects (mean age 14.3 years old) participated in this study. Waveform patterns for [Hb] during the word fluency task differed between the two groups, although their task performances showed no significant difference. In the control group, the [total-Hb] and [oxy-Hb] immediately increased and the [deoxy-Hb] immediately decreased after the beginning of the task and gradually reached the baseline level after the end of the task. The patients with AN were consistently characterized by an unchanged or less fluctuating response pattern of [total-Hb], [oxy-Hb] and [deoxy-Hb] during the task and rest periods. In the AN group, subjects with higher Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) scores showed higher [oxy-Hb] during the task. On the other hand, in the control group, subjects with higher EAT-26 scores showed lower [oxy-Hb] during the task. The grand waveforms of each [Hb] during a motor activation task, which was applied as a control task, did not differ significantly between two groups. The different prefrontal hemodynamic responses might indicate that AN subjects might apply fewer brain circuits or fewer neurons per circuit during cognitive tasks and might use different brain circuits in relation to their preoccupation with eating behaviors.