Deficit in the Emotional Embodiment in Alexithymia

Scarpazza, Cristina (2015) Deficit in the Emotional Embodiment in Alexithymia, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in International phd program in cognitive neuroscience, 27 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/6840.
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Alexithymia refers to difficulties in recognizing one’s own emotions and others emotions. Theories of emotional embodiment suggest that, in order to understand other peoples’ feelings, observers re-experience, or simulate, the relevant component (i.e. somatic, motor, visceral) of emotion’s expressed by others in one’s self. In this way, the emotions are “embodied”. Critically, to date, there are no studies investigating the ability of alexithymic individuals in embodying the emotions conveyed by faces. In the present dissertation different implicit paradigms and techniques falling within the field of affective neuroscience have been employed in order to test a possible deficit in the embodiment of emotions in alexithymia while subjects were requested to observe faces manifesting different expression: fear, disgust, happiness and neutral. The level of the perceptual encoding of emotional faces and the embodiment of emotions in the somato-sensory and sensory-motor system have been investigated. Moreover, non-communicative motor reaction to emotional stimuli (i.e. visceral reactions) and interoceptive abilities of alexithymic subjects have been explored. The present dissertation provided convergent evidences in support of a deficit in the processing of fearful expression in subjects with high alexithymic personality traits. Indeed, the pattern of fear induced changes in the perceptual encoding, in the somato-sensory and in the somato-motor system (both the communicative and non communicative one) is widely and consistently altered in alexithymia. This support the hypothesis of a diminished responses to fearful stimuli in alexithymia. In addition, the overall results on happiness and disgust, although preliminary, provided interesting results. Indeed, the results on happiness revealed a defective perceptual encoding, coupled with a slight difficulty (i.e. delayed responses) at the level of the communicative somato-motor system, and the emotion of disgust has been found to be abnormally embodied at the level of the somato-sensory system.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Scarpazza, Cristina
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze umanistiche
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
alexithymia, embodiment, emotions, fear
Data di discussione
12 Giugno 2015

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