Frontiers in Neurology (Aug 2019)

Processing of Emotions in Functional Movement Disorder: An Exploratory fMRI Study

  • Petr Sojka,
  • Petr Sojka,
  • Jan Lošák,
  • Jan Lošák,
  • Martin Lamoš,
  • Martin Bareš,
  • Martin Bareš,
  • Tomáš Kašpárek,
  • M. Brázdil,
  • M. Baláž,
  • Miroslav Světlák,
  • J. Kočvarová,
  • J. Fialová

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10


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Background: Affective dysregulation and impaired cognitive control are implicated in the pathology of functional neurological disorders (FNDs). However, voluntary regulation of emotions has seldom been researched in this group of patients. We hypothesized that patients with FNDs use inefficient voluntary emotion regulation strategies and regulate emotional reactions via increased motor activation.Methods: Fifteen patients with functional movement disorder (FMD) and fifteen healthy subjects matched by age, sex, and education underwent an emotion regulation task in fMRI. For stimuli, we used neutral and negative pictures from the International Affective Picture System. There was no restriction on their emotion regulation strategy. Both patients and healthy subjects were asked about the strategies they had used in a post-scanning interview. Participant levels of depression, trait anxiety, and alexithymia were assessed.Results: There were no significant differences in the emotion regulation strategies used by patients and healthy subjects, nor in levels of reported alexithymia and depression. However, patients showed increased activation in several brain areas when observing negative pictures, notably in the post-central gyrus, precuneus, posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and cerebellar vermis, and also in their emotion regulation condition, particularly in the precuneus and post-central gyrus. Alexithymia was negatively associated with left insular activation during the observation of unpleasant stimuli only in the patient group.Conclusions: Our findings may implicate areas associated with self-referential processing in voluntary emotional regulation and lower emotional awareness as having a role in patients with functional movement disorders. However, our findings must be replicated with larger sample.