Neural correlates of conversion disorder: overview and meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies on motor conversion disorder

BMC Psychiatry. 2016 Jun 10;16:195. doi: 10.1186/s12888-016-0890-x.


Background: Conversion Disorders (CD) are prevalent functional disorders. Although the pathogenesis is still not completely understood, an interaction of genetic, neurobiological, and psychosocial factors is quite likely. The aim of this study is to provide a systematic overview on imaging studies on CDs and investigate neuronal areas involved in Motor Conversion Disorders (MCD).

Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted on CD. Subsequently a meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging studies on MCD was implemented using an Activation Likelihood Estimation (ALE). We calculated differences between patients and healthy controls as well as between affected versus unaffected sides in addition to an overall analysis in order to identify neuronal areas related to MCD.

Results: Patients with MCD differ from healthy controls in the amygdala, superior temporal lobe, retrosplenial area, primary motor cortex, insula, red nucleus, thalamus, anterior as well as dorsolateral prefrontal and frontal cortex. When comparing affected versus unaffected sides, temporal cortex, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, supramarginal gyrus, dorsal temporal lobe, anterior insula, primary somatosensory cortex, superior frontal gyrus and anterior prefrontal as well as frontal cortex show significant differences.

Conclusions: Neuronal areas seem to be involved in the pathogenesis, maintenance or as a result of MCD. Areas that are important for motor-planning, motor-selection or autonomic response seem to be especially relevant. Our results support the emotional unawareness theory but also underline the need of more support by conduction imaging studies on both CD and MCD.

Keywords: Hysteria; Meta-analysis; Motor conversion disorder; Neuroimaging; Neurology.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Conversion Disorder / diagnostic imaging*
  • Conversion Disorder / physiopathology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neuroimaging