Distinct associations of insula and cingulate volume with the cognitive and affective dimensions of alexithymia

Katharina Sophia Goerlich-Dobre*, Lori Bruce, Sander Martens, Andreas Aleman, Christine I. Hooker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Alexithymia ("no words for feelings") is a major risk factor for psychosomatic and psychiatric conditions characterized by affect dysregulation. The alexithymia personality construct comprises an affective dimension, the level of subjective emotional experience (emotionalizing and fantasizing), and a cognitive dimension, referring to the cognitive control of emotions (identifying, analyzing, and verbalizing feelings). These two dimensions may differentially put individuals at risk for psychopathology, but their specific neural bases have rarely been investigated. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to find out whether the two alexithymia dimensions are associated with discriminable neural correlates. By means of voxel-based morphomety (VBM), differences in gray matter volumes were compared between 20 (10 male) high-scorers and 20 (9 male) low-scorers on the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20), reflecting the cognitive alexithymia dimension. In a subset of 32 subjects, the impact of the affective alexithymia dimension was tested in addition, as assessed with the affective subscale of the Bermond-Vorst Alexithymia Questionnaire (BVAQ). Analysis 1 (cognitive alexithymia dimension) revealed significantly larger gray matter volumes in the right posterior insula in high-scorers compared to low-scorers on the TAS-20. Analysis 2 (affective alexithymia dimension) revealed that the affective alexithymia dimension, specifically the emotionalizing factor indicative of low emotional reactivity, was associated with larger gray matter volumes of the right cingulate cortex. These results suggest that the two alexithymia dimensions are associated with distinct structural correlates. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-292
Number of pages9
JournalNeuropsychologia
Volume53
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2014

Keywords

  • Alexithymia dimensions
  • Cognitive
  • Affective
  • Voxel-based morphometry
  • Insula
  • Cingulate cortex
  • VOXEL-BASED MORPHOMETRY
  • GRAY-MATTER VOLUME
  • INDIVIDUAL-DIFFERENCES
  • INTEROCEPTIVE AWARENESS
  • EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
  • BRAIN ACTIVATION
  • FMRI
  • AMYGDALA
  • METAANALYSIS
  • STIMULATION

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