Dissociable morphometric profiles of the affective and cognitive dimensions of alexithymia

J. van der Velde, M.J.D. van Tol, K.S. Goerlich-Dobre, P.M. Gromann, M. Swart, L. de Haan, D. Wiersma, R. Bruggeman, L. Krabbendam, A. Aleman

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Alexithymia ("no words for feelings") is a psychological construct that can be divided in a cognitive and affective dimension. The cognitive dimension reflects the ability to identify, verbalize and analyze feelings, whereas the affective dimension reflects the degree to which individuals get aroused by emotional stimuli and their ability to fantasize. These two alexithymia dimensions may differentially put individuals at risk to develop psychopathology. However, their neural correlates have rarely been investigated. The aim of the current study was to investigate whether the cognitive and affective alexithymia dimension are associated with unique anatomical profiles. Structural MRI scans of 57 participants (29 males; mean age: 34) were processed using a voxel-based morphometry (VBM) - Diffeomorphic Anatomical Registration Through Exponentiated Lie algebra (DARTEL) approach. Multiple regression analyses were performed to examine the common and specific associations between gray and white matter volume and alexithymia subdimensions. The results revealed that the cognitive dimension was related to lower dorsal anterior cingulate volume. In contrast, the affective alexithymia was associated with lower gray matter volume in the medial orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and lower white matter volume in the superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF) near the angular gyrus. No relationship between corpus callosum volume and alexithymia was observed. These results are consistent with the idea that there are two separable neural systems underlying alexithymia. This finding might encourage future research into the link between specific alexithymia subtypes and the development of psychopathology. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)190-199
    Issue number54
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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