Emotional memory in depersonalization disorder: a functional MRI study

Psychiatry Res. 2006 Dec 1;148(2-3):93-102. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2006.05.007. Epub 2006 Nov 7.


This study examines emotional memory effects in primary depersonalization disorder (DPD). A core complaint of DPD sufferers is the dulling of emotional responses, and previous work has shown that, in response to aversive stimuli, DPD patients do not show activation of brain regions involved in normal emotional processing. We hypothesized that DPD sufferers would not show the normal emotional enhancement of memory, and that they would not show activation of brain regions concerned with emotional processing during encoding and recognition of emotional verbal material. Using fMRI, 10 DPD patients were compared with an age-matched healthy control group while performing a test of emotional verbal memory, comprising one encoding and two recognition memory tasks. DPD patients showed significantly enhanced recognition for overtly emotive words, but did not show enhancement of memory for neutral words encoded in an emotive context. In addition, patients did not show activation of emotional processing areas during encoding, and exhibited no substantial difference in their neural responses to emotional and neutral material in the encoding and emotional word recognition tasks. This study provides further evidence that patients with DPD do not process emotionally salient material in the same way as healthy controls, in accordance with their subjective descriptions of reduced or absent emotional responses.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Depersonalization / diagnosis
  • Depersonalization / physiopathology*
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Reading
  • Reference Values
  • Semantics
  • Verbal Learning / physiology*