How Does Emotional Context Modulate Response Inhibition in Alexithymia: Electrophysiological Evidence from an ERP Study

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Abstract

Background: Alexithymia, characterized by difficulties in identifying and describing feelings, is highly indicative of a broad range of psychiatric disorders. Several studies have also discovered the response inhibition ability impairment in alexithymia. However, few studies on alexithymic individuals have specifically examined how emotional context modulates response inhibition procedure. In order to investigate emotion cognition interaction in alexithymia, we analyzed the spatiao-temporal features of such emotional response inhibition by the approaches of event-related potentials and neural source-localization. Method: The study participants included 15 subjects with high alexithymia scores on the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (alexithymic group) and 15 matched subjects with low alexithymia scores (control group). Subjects were instructed to perform a modified emotional Go/Nogo task while their continuous electroencephalography activities were synchronously recorded. The task includes 3 categories of emotional contexts (positive, negative and neutral) and 2 letters ("M" and "W") centered in the screen. Participants were told to complete go and nogo actions based on the letters. We tested the influence of alexithymia in this emotional Go/Nogo task both in behavioral level and related neural activities of N2 and P3 ERP components. Results: We found that negatively valenced context elicited larger central P3 amplitudes of the Nogo-Go difference wave in the alexithymic group than in the control group. Furthermore, source-localization analyses implicated the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) as the neural generator of the Nogo-P3. Conclusion: These findings suggest that difficulties in identifying feelings, particularly in negative emotions, is a major feature of alexithymia, and the ACC plays a critical role in emotion-modulated response inhibition related to alexithymia. © 2012 Zhang et al.

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Zhang, L., Ye, R., Yu, F., Cao, Z., Zhu, C., Cai, Z., … Wang, K. (2012). How Does Emotional Context Modulate Response Inhibition in Alexithymia: Electrophysiological Evidence from an ERP Study. PLoS ONE, 7(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0051110

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