Neural Correlates of Body Integrity Dysphoria

Curr Biol. 2020 Jun 8;30(11):2191-2195.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.001. Epub 2020 May 7.


There are few things as irrefutable as the evidence that our limbs belong to us. However, persons with body integrity dysphoria (BID) [1] deny the ownership of one of their fully functional limbs and seek its amputation [2]. We tapped into the brain mechanisms of BID, examining sixteen men desiring the removal of the left healthy leg. The primary sensorimotor area of the to-be-removed leg and the core area of the conscious representation of body size and shape (the right superior parietal lobule [rSPL]) [3, 4] were less functionally connected to the rest of the brain. Furthermore, the left premotor cortex, reportedly involved in the multisensory integration of limb information [5-7], and the rSPL were atrophic. The more atrophic the rSPL, the stronger the desire for amputation, and the more an individual pretended to be an amputee by using wheelchairs or crutches to solve the mismatch between the desired and actual body. Our findings illustrate the pivotal role of the connectivity of the primary sensorimotor limb area in the mediation of the feeling of body ownership. They also delineate the morphometric and functional alterations in areas of higher-order body representation possibly responsible for the dissatisfaction with a standard body configuration. The neural correlates of BID may foster the understanding of other neuropsychiatric disorders involving the bodily self. Ultimately, they may help us understand what most of us take for granted, i.e., the experience of body and self as a seamless unity.

Keywords: ICD 11; amputation; body image; body integrity dysphoria; left ventral premotor cortex; limb ownership; mental disorder; resting-state functional connectivity; right superior parietal lobule; voxel-based morphometry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amputation, Surgical / psychology*
  • Body Dysmorphic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Body Dysmorphic Disorders / psychology
  • Body Image
  • Brain Mapping
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Leg
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parietal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Switzerland