Study sheds new light on brain activity linked to dissociative symptoms

Summary: Dissociation often occurs as a result of trauma and affects more women than men. A new study has found that different dissociative symptoms are uniquely associated with connections in areas of brain networks related to cognition and emotional processing.

Source: McLean Hospital

Trauma can cause dissociative symptoms, such as an out-of-body experience or feelings of emotional numbness, which can help a person cope in the short term, but can have negative effects if symptoms persist for a long time. .

In a new study published recently in Neuropsychopharmacologya team led by investigators from McLean Hospital, the largest psychiatric affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a member of Mass General Brigham, has identified regions within brain networks that communicate with each other when people experience different types of symptoms dissociative.

“Dissociation and severe dissociative disorders like dissociative identity disorder or ‘DID’ remain underappreciated at best and often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed at worst,” said co-lead author Lauren AM Lebois, Ph.D., director of the Dissociative Disorders and Trauma Research Program.

“The cost of this stigma and misdiagnosis is high – it has prevented people from accessing appropriate and effective treatment, caused prolonged suffering and delayed research into dissociation. Additionally, since DID disproportionately affects women, gender disparity is an important issue in this context.

Lebois and colleagues’ study included 91 women with and without a history of childhood trauma, current post-traumatic stress disorder, and with varying levels of dissociative symptoms. Participants performed a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan so that investigators could gain insight into their brain activity.

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Scientists found that different dissociative symptoms were uniquely associated with connections in areas of brain networks responsible for cognitive and emotional processes. Image is in public domain

“The new methods we used to study brain connectivity are key to understanding the role these network disruptions play in dissociative disorders,” said co-lead author Lisa D. Nickerson, Ph.D., director of the Applied Neuroimaging Statistics Laboratory at McLean Hospital. .

Scientists found that different dissociative symptoms were uniquely associated with connections in areas of brain networks responsible for cognitive and emotional processes. “We found that the common dissociation in post-traumatic stress disorder and the central dissociation in DID are each linked to unique brain signatures,” Lebois said.

The team hopes that a better understanding of the brain correlates of dissociation will help rectify historical misunderstandings about dissociation and DID, destigmatize these experiences, and help reduce gender-related health disparities.

“We also hope this will increase awareness of dissociative symptoms and ultimately clinicians will be more likely to assess and consider these symptoms, and connect patients with timely and appropriate treatment,” said said co-lead author Milissa Kaufman, MD. , Ph.D., Director of the Dissociative Disorders and Trauma Research Program.

Importantly, the unique brain signatures of different dissociative symptoms may point to new therapies, the study authors said. “In the future, we may target dissociation-related brain activity as a treatment in itself,” said co-author Kerry J. Ressler, MD, Ph.D., chief scientific officer of McLean.

About this dissociation research news

Author: Press office
Source: McLean University
Contact: Press Office – McLean University
Image: Image is in public domain

Original research: Access closed.
“Deconstructing dissociation: a triple network model of traumatic dissociation and its subtypes” by Lauren AM Lebois et al. Neuropsychopharmacology


Summary

Deconstructing dissociation: a triple network model of traumatic dissociation and its subtypes

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Trauma-related pathological dissociation is characterized by disturbances in sense of self, perception, and affective experience. Dissociation and its trauma-related antecedents have a disproportionate impact on women.

However, despite the gender-related prevalence and the high individual and societal costs, dissociation remains largely underestimated in clinical practice. Moreover, dissociation lacks a synthesized neurobiological pattern through its subtypes.

Drawing on the triple network model of psychopathology, we sought to analyze heterogeneity in dissociative experience by examining the functional connectivity of three main neurocognitive networks in relation to: (1) dimensional dissociation subtypes of depersonalization/ derealization and partially dissociated intrusions; and (2) the diagnostic category of dissociative identity disorder (DID).

Participants were 91 women with and without: history of childhood trauma, current post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and varying levels of dissociation. Participants provided clinical data on dissociation, PTSD symptoms, history of childhood maltreatment, and performed resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging.

We used a novel statistical approach to assess both overlapping and unique contributions of dissociation subtypes.

Covariant with age, childhood maltreatment, and PTSD severity, we found that dissociation was related to hyperconnectivity within the central executive (CEN), default (DN), and salience (SN) networks. ), and a decrease in CEN and SN connectivity with other domains.

Additionally, we isolated unique connectivity markers associated with depersonalization/derealization in CEN and DN, partially dissociated intrusions in CEN, and DID in CEN.

This suggests that dissociation subtypes have robust functional connectivity signatures that may serve as targets for engagement in PTSD/DID treatment. Our results underscore that the assessment of dissociation is crucial in clinical care, especially for reducing gender-related health disparities.

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