Alexithymia and the Processing of Emotional Information

Monday, March 14, 2011

Olivier Luminet

Assoc. Professor, University of Louvain, UCL, Belgium
Sr. research Assoc., Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research

Alexithymia is a multifaceted construct comprising (a) difficulty identifying feelings and distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal; (b) difficulty describing feelings to others; (c) a restricted imagination, as evidenced by a paucity of fantasies; and (d) a cognitive style that is literal, utilitarian, and externally oriented. These cognitive and affective characteristics were observed among patients with a variety of psychiatric and medical disorders that involve disturbances in emotion regulation, suggesting that alexithymia could be a vulnerability factor for mental and physical health. In this presentation, Professor Luminet will highlight new results from his lab dealing with the moderating impact of alexithymia on abilities to encode and retrieve emotional vs. neutral material and to read others’s emotions under oxytocin. He will also show the associations with adaptive vs. maladaptive types of rumination and with cognitive vs. emotional aspects of empathy.

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