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Differential modulation of valence and arousal in high-alexithymic and low-alexithymic individuals

Heinzel, Alexandera; Schäfer, Ralfb; Müller, Hans-Wilhelma; Schieffer, Andrea; Ingenhag, Arianea; Northoff, Georgc; Franz, Matthiasb; Hautzel, Hubertusa

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e32833f38e0

High-alexithymic individuals are characterized by an impaired ability to identify and communicate emotions whereas low-alexithymic individuals have a wide-ranging ability to deal with emotions. This study examined the hypothesis that valence and arousal modifications of emotional stimuli differentially modulate cortical regions in high-alexithymic and low-alexithymic individuals. To this end, 28 high-alexithymic and 25 low-alexithymic individuals were investigated with event-related fMRI using visual emotional stimuli. We found differential neural activations in the dorsal anterior cingulate, the insula and the amygdala. We suggest that these differences may account for the impaired ability of high-alexithymic individuals to appropriately handle emotional stimuli.

aDepartment of Nuclear Medicine

bClinical Institute of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University of Düsseldorf, Germany

cCanada Research Chair in Neuropsychiatry, Ottawa University, Canada

Correspondence to Dr Alexander Heinzel, Department of Nuclear Medicine, University of Düsseldorf at Forschungszentrum Jülich, D- 52425 Jülich, Germany

Tel: +49 2461 6347; fax: +49 2461 618044; e-mail:

Received 6 August 2010 accepted 9 August 2010

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.