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The functional and structural characteristics of the emotion network in alexithymia

Authors Han D, Li M, Mei MJ, Sun XF

Received 19 October 2017

Accepted for publication 23 January 2018

Published 12 April 2018 Volume 2018:14 Pages 991—998


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Wai Kwong Tang

Dai Han,1–3 Mei Li,4 Minjun Mei,4 Xiaofei Sun4

1Institutes of Psychological Sciences, Hangzhou Normal University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China; 2Children and Adolescents Mental Health Joint Clinic, The Affiliated Hospital of Hangzhou Normal University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China; 3Zhejiang Key Laboratory for Research in Assessment of Cognitive Impairments, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China; 4Mental Health Education and Counseling Center, Hangzhou Normal University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

Background: Alexithymia is a multifaceted personality trait characterized by emotional dysfunction.
Methods: In this study, the functional and structural features of the emotion network in alexithymia were investigated using resting-state functional MRI (rsfMRI), voxel-based morphometry (VBM), functional connectivity (FC) analysis, and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Alexithymic and non-alexithymic students were recruited from the local university. The intrinsic neural activity and gray matter density of the brain regions in the emotion network were measured using rsfMRI and VBM; the FC and structural connectivity of the brain regions in the emotion network were measured using FC analysis and DTI.
Results: The altered intrinsic neural activity in V1, rostral dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, and left amygdala, and the weak FC between V1 and left superior temporal gyrus and V1 and left paracentral lobule in alexithymia subjects were identified. However, no alteration of the structure and structural connectivity of the emotion network was identified.
Conclusion: The results indicated that the development of alexithymia might have been caused only by slight alteration of the neural activity. Furthermore, the results suggest that noninvasive treatment technologies for improving the brain activity are suitable for alexithymic individuals.

Keywords: emotion network, rsfMRI, VBM, functional connectivity, structural connectivity

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