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See detailCardiac modulation of startle is altered in depersonalization-/derealization disorder: evidence for impaired brainstem representation of baro-afferent neural traffic
Schulz, André UL; Matthey, J. H.; Vögele, Claus UL et al

in Psychiatry Research (2016), 240(1), 4-10

Patients with depersonalization-/derealization disorder (DPD) show altered heartbeat-evoked brain potentials, which are considered psychophysiological indicators of cortical representation of visceral ... [more ▼]

Patients with depersonalization-/derealization disorder (DPD) show altered heartbeat-evoked brain potentials, which are considered psychophysiological indicators of cortical representation of visceral-afferent neural signals. The aim of the current investigation was to clarify whether the impaired CNS representation of visceral-afferent neural signals in DPD is restricted to the cortical level or is also present in sub-cortical structures. We used cardiac modulation of startle (CMS) to assess baro-afferent signal transmission at brainstem level in 22 DPD and 23 healthy control individuals. The CMS paradigm involved acoustic startle stimuli (105 dB(A), 50 ms) elicited 0, 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500 ms after a cardiac R-wave. In healthy control individuals, we observed lower startle responses at 100 and 300 ms than at 0 and 400 ms after an R-wave. In DPD patients, no effect of the cardiac cycle on startle response magnitude was found. We conclude that the representation of visceral-afferent neural signals at brainstem level may be deficient in DPD. This effect may be due to increased peripheral sympathetic tone or to dysregulated signal processing at brainstem level. [less ▲]

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See detailStriking discrepancy of anomalous body experiences with normal interoceptive accuracy in depersonalization-derealization disorder
Michal, M.; Reuchlein, B.; Adler, J. et al

in PLoS ONE (2014), 9(2), 89823

BACKGROUND: Disembodiment is a core feature of depersonalization disorder (DPD). Given the narratives of DPD patients about their disembodiment and emotional numbing and neurobiological findings of an ... [more ▼]

BACKGROUND: Disembodiment is a core feature of depersonalization disorder (DPD). Given the narratives of DPD patients about their disembodiment and emotional numbing and neurobiological findings of an inhibition of insular activity, DPD may be considered as a mental disorder with specific impairments of interoceptive awareness and body perception. METHODS: We investigated cardioceptive accuracy (CA) of DPD patients (n = 24) as compared to healthy controls (n = 26) with two different heartbeat detection tasks ("Schandry heartbeat counting task" and "Whitehead heartbeat discrimination task"). Self-rated clearness of body perception was measured by questionnaire. RESULTS: Contrary to our hypothesis, DPD patients performed similarly to healthy controls on the two different heartbeat detection tasks, and they had equal scores regarding their self-rated clearness of body perception. There was no correlation of the severity of "anomalous body experiences" and depersonalization with measures of interoceptive accuracy. Only among healthy controls CA in the Schandry task was positively correlated with self-rated clearness of body perception. Depersonalization was unrelated to severity of depression or anxiety, while depression and anxiety were highly correlated. Anxiety and depression did not modify the associations of depersonalization with interoceptive accuracy. CONCLUSIONS: Our main findings highlight a striking discrepancy of normal interoception with overwhelming experiences of disembodiment in DPD. This may reflect difficulties of DPD patients to integrate their visceral and bodily perceptions into a sense of their selves. This problem may be considered an important target for psychotherapeutic treatment approaches. [less ▲]

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