Journal Article

Altered resting state connectivity of the default mode network in alexithymia

Edith J. Liemburg, Marte Swart, Richard Bruggeman, Rudie Kortekaas, Henderikus Knegtering, Branislava Ćurčić-Blake and André Aleman

in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

Volume 7, issue 6, pages 660-666
Published in print August 2012 | ISSN: 1749-5016
Published online June 2012 | e-ISSN: 1749-5024 | DOI:
Altered resting state connectivity of the default mode network in alexithymia

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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.

Keywords: alexithymia; connectivity; default mode network; fMRI; resting state

Journal Article.  5936 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognition and Behavioural Neuroscience

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