Altered resting state connectivity of the default mode network in alexithymia

Edith J. Liemburg*, Marte Swart, Richard Bruggeman, Rudie Kortekaas, Henderikus Knegtering, Branislava Curcic-Blake, Andre Aleman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Alexithymia is a trait characterized by a diminished capacity to describe and distinguish emotions and to fantasize; it is associated with reduced introspection and problems in emotion processing. The default mode network (DMN) is a network of brain areas that is normally active during rest and involved in emotion processing and self-referential mental activity, including introspection. We hypothesized that connectivity of the DMN might be altered in alexithymia. Twenty alexithymic and 18 non-alexithymic healthy volunteers underwent a resting state fMRI scan. Independent component analysis was used to identify the DMN. Differences in connectivity strength were compared between groups. Within the DMN, alexithymic participants showed lower connectivity within areas of the DMN (medial frontal and temporal areas) as compared to non-alexithymic participants. In contrast, connectivity in the high-alexithymic participants was higher for the sensorimotor cortex, occipital areas and right lateral frontal cortex than in the low-alexithymic participants. These results suggest a diminished connectivity within the DMN of alexithymic participants, in brain areas that may also be involved in emotional awareness and self-referential processing. On the other hand, alexithymia was associated with stronger functional connections of the DMN with brain areas involved in sensory input and control of emotion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)660-666
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Volume7
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2012

Keywords

  • alexithymia
  • connectivity
  • default mode network
  • fMRI
  • resting state
  • AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER
  • FUNCTIONAL CONNECTIVITY
  • EMOTION REGULATION
  • AMYGDALA ACTIVITY
  • CINGULATE CORTEX
  • NEGATIVE EMOTION
  • BRAIN-FUNCTION
  • FMRI
  • FEELINGS
  • SELF

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