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CNS Spectr. 2009 Sep;14(9):467-71.

Cognitive-affective neuroscience of depersonalization.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, South Africa.


Depersonalization disorder (DPD) is characterized by a subjective sense of detachment from one's own being and a sense of unreality. An examination of the psychobiology of depersonalization symptoms may be useful in understanding the cognitive-affective neuroscience of embodiment. DPD may be mediated by neurocircuitry and neurotransmitters involved in the integration of sensory processing and of the body schema, and in the mediation of emotional experience and the identification of feelings. For example, DPD has been found to involve autonomic blunting, deactivation of sub-cortical structures, and disturbances in molecular systems in such circuitry. An evolutionary perspective suggests that attenuation of emotional responses, mediated by deactivation of limbic structures, may sometimes be advantageous in response to inescapable stress.

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