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See detailDistinctive body perception mechanisms in high versus low symptom reporters: a neurophysiological model for medically-unexplained symptoms
Schulz, André UL; Rost, Silke; Flasinski, Tabea et al

in Journal of Psychosomatic Research (2020), 137(1), 110223

OBJECTIVE: The neurophysiological processes involved in the generation of medicallyunexplained symptoms (MUS) remain unclear. This study tested three assumptions of the perception-filter model ... [more ▼]

OBJECTIVE: The neurophysiological processes involved in the generation of medicallyunexplained symptoms (MUS) remain unclear. This study tested three assumptions of the perception-filter model contributing to MUS: (I.) increased bodily signal strength (II.) decreased filter function, (III.) increased perception. METHODS: In this cross-sectional, observational study, trait MUS was assessed by a webbased survey (N=486). The upper and lower decile were identified as extreme groups of high (HSR; n=29; 26 women; Mage=26.0 years) and low symptom reporters (LSR; n=29; 21 women; Mage=28.4 years). Mean heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV), and cortisol awakening response (CAR) were assessed as indicators of bodily signal strength (I.). Heartbeat-evoked potentials (HEPs) were assessed during rest and a heartbeat perception task. HEPs reflect attentional resources allocated towards heartbeats and served as index of filter function (II.). Interoceptive accuracy (IAc) in heartbeat perception was assessed as an indicator of perception (III.). RESULTS: HSR showed higher HR and lower HRV (RMSSD) than LSR (I.), but no differences in CAR. HSR exhibited a stronger increase of HEPs when attention was focused on heartbeats than LSR (II.); there were no group differences in IAc (III.). CONCLUSIONS: The perception-filter model was partially confirmed in that HSR showed altered bodily signals suggesting higher sympathetic activity (I.); higher HEP increases indicated increased filter function for bodily signals (II.). As more attentional resources are mobilized to process heartbeats, but perception accuracy remains unchanged (III.), this overflow could be responsible for detecting minor bodily changes associated with MUS. [less ▲]

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