The Multifaceted Nature of Alexithymia - A Neuroscientific Perspective

Katharina S. Goerlich*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    78 Citations (Scopus)
    242 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    Neuroscientific studies have mostly employed the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20; Bagby et al., 1994a) for the assessment of alexithymia, a self-report scale that assesses the alexithymia facets difficulty identifying feelings, difficulty describing feelings, and externally oriented thinking. These facets can be considered to capture difficulties in the cognitive processing of emotions associated with alexithymia. However, Nemiah and Sifneos' original conceptualization of alexithymia included also an affective component, a lack of imaginative capacities, which cannot be assessed using the TAS-20. Aiming to capture the entire alexithymia construct, the Bermond-Vorst Alexithymia Questionnaire (BVAQ; Vorst and Bermond, 2001) was developed, a self-report scale which assesses two affective facets (difficulty fantasizing and difficulty emotionalizing) in addition to three cognitive facets. Based on these facets, an affective and a cognitive dimension of alexithymia can be distinguished. By now, several neuroscientific studies have investigated the neural signatures of the different facets and dimensions of alexithymia. Here, I provide an overview of the history of the alexithymia facets and dimensions and review findings provided by functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies that differentiated between the alexithymia facets and/or its affective and cognitive dimensions. I then provide a synopsis of the current neuroscientific evidence for dissociable substrates of alexithymia facets and dimensions. Finally, the scientific value and clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number1614
    Number of pages7
    JournalFrontiers in Psychology
    Volume9
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 29-Aug-2018

    Keywords

    • alexithymia
    • neuroimaging
    • facets
    • dimensions
    • cognitive
    • affective
    • GENERAL-POPULATION
    • INDIVIDUAL-DIFFERENCES
    • CONCURRENT VALIDITY
    • ANTERIOR CINGULATE
    • CROSS-VALIDATION
    • ITEM SELECTION
    • SCALE
    • DIMENSIONS
    • EMOTION
    • STIMULATION

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