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1.  Neuroimaging studies of alexithymia: physical, affective, and social perspectives 
Alexithymia refers to difficulty in identifying and expressing one’s emotions, and it is related to disturbed emotional regulation. It was originally proposed as a personality trait that plays a central role in psychosomatic diseases. This review of neuroimaging studies on alexithymia suggests that alexithymia is associated with reduced neural responses to emotional stimuli from the external environment, as well as with reduced activity during imagery, in the limbic and paralimbic areas (i.e., amygdala, insula, anterior/posterior cingulate cortex). In contrast, alexithymia is also known to be associated with enhanced neural activity in somatosensory and sensorimotor regions, including the insula. Moreover, neural activity in the medial, prefrontal, and insula cortex was lowered when people with alexithymia were involved in social tasks. Because most neuroimaging studies have been based on sampling by self-reported questionnaires, the contrasted features of neural activities in response to internal and external emotional stimuli need to be elucidated. The social and emotional responses of people with alexithymia are discussed and recommendations for future research are presented.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-7-8
PMCID: PMC3621096  PMID: 23537323
Alexithymia; fMRI; PET; Neuroimaging study; Interoception; Psychosomatic medicine; Emotional awareness
2.  The reliability and validity of the Japanese version of the Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS-J) 
Background
The Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS) was developed to assess five levels of emotional awareness: bodily sensations, action tendencies, single emotions, blends of emotion, and combinations of blends. It is a paper and pencil performance questionnaire that presents 20 emotion-evoking scenes. We developed a Japanese version of the LEAS (LEAS-J), and its reliability and validity were examined.
Methods
The LEAS-J level was independently assessed by two researchers who scored each response according to the LEAS scoring manual. High inter-rater reliability and internal consistency were obtained for the LEAS-J. Measures were socioeconomic status, LEAS-J, Toronto Alexithymia Scale-20 (TAS-20), Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI). TAS-20, IRI and NEO-FFI were the measures used to explore the construct validity of LEAS-J, as it was predicted that higher scores on the LEAS-J would be related to fewer alexithymic features, greater empathetic ability, and a greater sense of cooperation with others. Questionnaires were completed by 344 university students.
Results
The criterion-referenced validity was determined: a significant negative relationship was found with the externally-oriented thinking scores of TAS-20, and positive relationships were found with fantasy, perspective taking, and empathic concern on IRI and with extraversion, openness to experience, and agreeableness on NEO-FFI.
Conclusions
Consistent with our expectations, the findings provide evidence that the LEAS-J has good reliability and validity. In addition, women had significantly higher scores than men on LEAS-J, showing that the gender difference identified in the original LEAS was cross-culturally consistent.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-5-2
PMCID: PMC3042374  PMID: 21281491
3.  Validity issues in the assessment of alexithymia related to the developmental stages of emotional cognition and language 
Objective
We examined developmental aspects of the emotional awareness of adolescents by evaluating their responses to a self-reported questionnaire based on the Toronto Alexithymia Scale-20 (TAS-20).
Methods
The items of the TAS-20 were modified to make them more understandable by adolescents, and nine new items related to a limited capacity for imagination were added. The Japanese Linguistic Ability Test and the multi-dimensional empathy scale for adolescents were administered to examine concurrent validity. Two hundred and two normative young adolescents and thirty-two adolescent patients with psychosomatic and/or behavioral problems participated in the study. Eighty junior high school students also participated in a separate examination of test-retest reliability.
Results
Thirteen items were extracted after exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, and four core factors were identified in the resulting scale: Difficulty Identifying Feelings (DIF), Difficulty Describing Feelings (DDF), Externally-Oriented Thinking (EOT) and Constricted Imaginal Capacities (CIC). Interestingly, scores on the multi-dimensional empathy scale correlated positively with DIF and DDF, but negatively with EOT and CIC. Higher DDF scores were associated with higher Japanese linguistic abilities. DIF/DDF scores were higher for females than males, irrespective of linguistic ability. Test-retest reliability coefficients were significant. The patient group showed significantly higher DIF scores than the normative students.
Conclusion
The present findings indicated that subjective difficulties in identifying and describing feelings are associated with empathetic and linguistic abilities. The developmental aspect to emotional awareness herein described suggests that self-reported questionnaires for alexithymia must be carefully constructed and examined, even for adults.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-3-12
PMCID: PMC2777913  PMID: 19886981
4.  Prospects of Psychosomatic Medicine 
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-3-1
PMCID: PMC2642858  PMID: 19161633
5.  The empathic brain and its dysfunction in psychiatric populations: implications for intervention across different clinical conditions 
Empathy is a concept central to psychiatry, psychotherapy and clinical psychology. The construct of empathy involves not only the affective experience of the other person's actual or inferred emotional state but also some minimal recognition and understanding of another's emotional state. It is proposed, in the light of multiple levels of analysis including social psychology, cognitive neuroscience and clinical neuropsychology, a model of empathy that involves both bottom-up and top-down information processing underpinned by parallel and distributed computational mechanisms. The predictive validity of this model is explored with reference to clinical conditions. As many psychiatric conditions are associated with deficits or even lack of empathy, we discuss a limited number of these disorders including psychopathy/antisocial personality disorders, borderline and narcissistic personality disorders, autistic spectrum disorders, and alexithymia. We argue that future clinical investigations of empathy disorders can only be informative if behavioral, dispositional and biological factors are combined.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-1-22
PMCID: PMC2206036  PMID: 18021398
6.  Age and gender effect on alexithymia in large, Japanese community and clinical samples: a cross-validation study of the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) 
Background
The construct validity of alexithymia and its assessment using the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) in Japan is unknown. Low reliability has been found for the third factor of the TAS-20 in some cultures, and the factor structure for psychosomatic disorder patients has not been adequately investigated. Although alexithymia most likely has certain developmental aspects, this has infrequently been investigated.
Methods
The newly-developed Japanese TAS-20 was administered to a normative sample (n = 2,718; 14–84 y.o.), along with the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) for cross validation. Psychosomatic patients (n = 1,924, 12–87 y.o.) were tested to evaluate the factor structure in a clinical sample. College students (n = 196) were used for a test-retest study. Internal reliability and consistency were assessed, and the factorial structure was evaluated using confirmatory and exploratory factor analyses for both the normative and the clinical samples. The correlations between the TAS-20 and the NEO-FFI factor scores were evaluated. Age-related and gender differences in the TAS-20 were explored using analysis of variance in the normative sample.
Results
The original three-factor model of the TAS-20 was confirmed to be valid for these Japanese samples, although a 4-factor solution that included negatively keyed items (NKI) as an additional factor was more effective. Significant correlations of the TAS-20 with the NEO-FFI were found, as has been previously reported. Factor analyses of the normative and patient samples showed similar patterns. The TAS-20 total, difficulty in identifying feelings (DIF), and difficulty in describing feelings (DDF) scores were high for teenagers, decreased with age, and from 30s did not change significantly. In contrast, externally oriented thinking (EOT) scores showed an almost linear positive correlation with age. DIF scores were higher for females, while EOT scores were higher for males, without any interaction between gender and age differences.
Conclusion
The original three-factor concept of the TAS-20 was generally supported for practical use. Age-related differences in TAS-20 scores indicate developmental aspects of alexithymia. Alexithymia is made up of two components with different developmental paths: DIF/DDF and EOT.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-1-7
PMCID: PMC1838425  PMID: 17371586

Results 1-6 (6)