The study shows brain differences in the interpretation of physical signals in mental health disorders


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Researchers have shown why people with mental health disorders, including anorexia and panic disorders, experience physical signs differently.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge found that part of the which interprets the physical signals of the body behaves differently in people with a range of , suggesting that it could be a target for future treatments.

The researchers studied “interoception,” the ability to detect internal body conditions, and whether there were common brain differences during this process in people with mental health disorders. They found that a region of the brain called the middle dorsal insula showed different activity during interoception in various disorders, including depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and .

Many people with mental health disorders experience it otherwise, whether you’re feeling uncomfortable like anorexia or you don’t have enough air in panic disorder.

The results, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, show that activity on the dorsal middle insula could lead to these different interpretations of bodily sensations in mental health. A greater understanding of the differences in the way people experience physical symptoms may also be helpful for those dealing with mental health disorders.

We all use external perception (sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch) to navigate everyday life. But interoception, the ability to interpret our body’s signals, is equally important for survival, even though it often happens unconsciously.

“Interoception is something we are constantly doing, although we may not be aware of it,” said lead author Dr. Camilla Nord of MRC’s Knowledge and Brain Sciences Unit. “For example, most of us are able to interpret the signals of low blood sugar, such as tiredness or irritability, and we know how to eat something. However, there are differences in the way our brains they interpret these signals “.

Differences in interoceptive processes have been previously identified in people with eating disorders, anxiety and depression, panic disorder, addiction, and other mental health disorders. Theoretical models have suggested that interrupted cortical processing drives these changes in interoceptive processing, conferring vulnerability to various mental health symptoms.

Nord and colleagues combined brain imaging data from previous studies and compared differences in brain activity during interoception between 626 patients with mental health disorders and 610 healthy controls. “We wanted to find out if something similar happens to the brain in people with different mental disorders, regardless of their diagnosis,” he said.

Their analyzes showed that for patients with bipolar anxiety, major depression, anorexia, and schizophrenia, a portion of the cerebral cortex called the dorsal middle insula showed different brain activation in processing pain, hunger, and other interoceptive signals compared to the control group.

The researchers conducted a follow-up analysis and found that the insular middle ridge does not overlap with regions of the brain altered by antidepressant drugs or regions altered by psychological therapy, suggesting that it could be studied as a new target for future therapeutics. address differences in interoception.

“It’s surprising that despite the diversity of psychological symptoms, there seems to be a common factor in how the brain processes physical signals differently in mental health disorders,” Nord said. “It shows how intertwined physical and mental health are, but also the limitations of our diagnostic system, some in mental health it can be “transdiagnosis,” that is, it is found in many diagnoses. “

In the future, Dr. Nord plans studies to see if this alteration in activation could be altered with new treatments for disorders, such as brain stimulation.

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More information:
American Journal of Psychiatry (2021). DOI: 10.1176 / appi.ajp.2020.20091340

Citation: Study Shows Brain Differences in Interpretation of Physical Signals in Mental Health Disorders (2021, June 22) Retrieved June 22, 2021 at -physical-mental-health.html

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