Background: Dissociative identity disorder (DID) patients function as two or more identities or dissociative identity states (DIS), categorized as 'neutral identity states' (NIS) and 'traumatic identity states' (TIS). NIS inhibit access to traumatic memories thereby enabling daily life functioning. TIS have access and responses to these memories. We tested whether these DIS show different psychobiological reactions to trauma-related memory.
Methods: A symptom provocation paradigm with 11 DID patients was used in a two-by-two factorial design setting. Both NIS and TIS were exposed to a neutral and a trauma-related memory script. Three psychobiological parameters were tested: subjective ratings (emotional and sensori-motor), cardiovascular responses (heart rate, blood pressure, heart rate variability) and regional cerebral blood flow as determined with H(2)(15)O positron emission tomography.
Results: Psychobiological differences were found for the different DIS. Subjective and cardiovascular reactions revealed significant main and interactions effects. Regional cerebral blood flow data revealed different neural networks to be associated with different processing of the neutral and trauma-related memory script by NIS and TIS.
Conclusions: Patients with DID encompass at least two different DIS. These identities involve different subjective reactions, cardiovascular responses and cerebral activation patterns to a trauma-related memory script.