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, 121 (2), 530-43

Tactile Perceptual Processes and Their Relationship to Somatoform Disorders

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Tactile Perceptual Processes and Their Relationship to Somatoform Disorders

Anna Katzer et al. J Abnorm Psychol.

Abstract

The Somatic Signal Detection Task (SSDT) is a recent paradigm serving to examine perceptual processes likely relevant for somatoform disorders. We tested whether touch illusions are more easily induced in individuals suffering from somatoform disorders (SFD) and whether their perceptual threshold for tactile stimuli is lower compared to healthy controls. Thirty-three participants with SFD and 32 healthy controls reported whether they recognized near-threshold tactile stimuli at their fingertip, which were presented in half of the test trials. With a probability of 0.5, an auxiliary visual stimulus was additionally presented. Tactile detection thresholds, tactile sensitivity, response bias, and the rate of false-positive perceptions of the tactile stimulus were assessed. In both groups, the light stimulus led to an amelioration of tactile sensitivity as well as to a more liberal response style. The SFD group was characterized by a more liberal response bias in the first half of the light-absent condition compared to the healthy controls. Within the SFD group, the report of somatoform (especially pseudoneurological) symptoms correlated positively with illusory tactile perceptions in the SSDT. Tactile thresholds in the SSDT were measured reliably (rtt = .86) and were significantly lower in the SFD group. The notion that general perceptual dispositions influence the formation of symptom perception may thus complement cognitive models of SFD.

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