Body integrity identity disorder (BIID) is characterized by the overwhelming desire to amputate one or more healthy limbs or to be paraplegic. Recently, a neurological explanation of this condition has been proposed, in part on the basis of findings that the insular cortex might present structural anomalies in these individuals. While these studies focused on body representation, much less is known about emotional processing. Importantly, emotional impairments have been found in psychiatric disorders, and a psychiatric etiology is still a valid alternative to purely neurological accounts of BIID. In this study, we explored, by means of a computerized experiment, facial emotion recognition and emotional responses to disgusting images in seven individuals with BIID, taking into account their clinical features and investigating in detail disgust processing, strongly linked to insular functioning. We demonstrate that BIID is not characterized by a general emotional impairment; rather, there is a selectively reduced disgust response to violations of the body envelope. Taken together, our results support the need to explore this condition under an interdisciplinary perspective, taking into account also emotional connotations and the social modulation of body representation.
Keywords: apotemnophilia; body integrity identity disorder (BIID); embodied emotions; somatoparaphrenia; xenomelia.