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J Trauma Dissociation. 2012;13(3):311-29. doi: 10.1080/15299732.2011.606742.

Psychophysiological investigations in depersonalization disorder and effects of electrodermal biofeedback.

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Depersonalization Research Unit, King's College London, London, England.


Previous studies investigating depersonalization disorder (DPD) report a lower baseline skin conductance level (SCL) and attenuated skin conductance response (SCR) to emotive stimuli. We hypothesized that increasing physiological arousal levels via electrodermal biofeedback may ameliorate disembodiment and emotional numbing symptomatology. Real-time versus sham biofeedback yielded a significant SCL increase after just 3 real-time biofeedback sessions in healthy volunteers. Subsequently, a randomized controlled biofeedback trial was administered with DPD patients. Findings were not replicated as SCL tended to fall, curiously more substantially in the real-time condition, concomitant with increased low- and high-frequency heart rate variability. To further investigate abnormal autonomic regulation in DPD, we compared basal autonomic activity between patients and healthy volunteers and found the former to be significantly more labile, indexed by greater nonspecific SCRs and higher resting SCLs. Rather than low sympathetic arousal, DPD might be better characterized by abnormal autonomic regulation affecting emotional and physiological responsivity.

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