Functional and structural neuroimaging of facial emotion recognition in alexithymia

by Klas Ihme

Institution: Universität Leipzig
Department: Medizinische Fakultät
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Record ID: 1101504
Full text PDF: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bsz:15-qucosa-165971


Research in the last decades has shown that individuals with high degrees in the personality trait of alexithymia not only have difficulties in identifying and recognizing own feelings, but also show deficits in reading emotions from facial expressions of other people. Therefore, the current dissertation investigates the neural correlates of recognizing emotional facial expressions as a function of alexithymia. Initially, a theoretical introduction is given and existing findings from behavioral as well as structural and functional neuroimaging research are presented. Open questions are identified and addressed in one structural and two functional magnetic resonance imaging studies that were compiled into three original research articles. Study 1 examined the gray matter profile of high and low alexithymic individuals in selected brain regions relevant for processing emotional faces. In Study 2, functional neuroimaging was used to investigate the neural correlates of high alexithymic individuals\' difficulties in labeling briefly presented (≤ 100 ms) facial expressions of emotion. Study 3 investigated neural activations as a function of alexithymia during the labeling of emotional facial expressions when these are presented with little temporal constraints (≥ 1 s). The results of these studies are summarized and integrated with the existing literature. Finally, open issues are discussed and ideas for further research are outlined.