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Body Disturbances

Bodily Self Disturbances and Social Disconnection in Psychiatric Disorders

Splitting of the self from the body, and self-disturbances were central to Bleuler’s conceptualization of schizophrenia. A distorted sense of self appears to be a core feature of the disorder beginning during the prodromal stages. Furthermore, bodily self-disturbances are highly salient to those diagnosed with schizophrenia throughout the course of illness. At-risk individuals are also highly susceptible to experimental manipulation of self-other boundary, body ownership and agency. Thus, understanding neurocognitive mechanisms underlying self-disturbances would have significant implications for implementing treatments, but self-disorder is not even included in the current DSM-5 criteria for schizophrenia. To begin to address this gap, I edited a special issue of Schizophrenia Research in 2014 to showcase theoretical and empirical studies of self and body disturbances in schizophrenia and delved into creating valid and reliable methods for assessing bodily self-disturbances. The results of this line of research indicate that dissociative bodily experiences (out-of-body experiences, feeling-of-presence) affect as many as 40% of schizophrenia-spectrum individuals. Importantly, such dissociative experiences are exacerbated by social isolation and loneliness and lead to social impairments. This line of research has led to  the development of novel multisensory tasks that allow us to map embodied emotions as well as to estimate the psychological extent of one’s perceived self-boundary and a novel picture based inventory of body disturbances. These tools can now be leveraged to detect and screen prodromal psychosis as well as treatment-targets.

To summarize, self-disturbances and social disconnection are also common features of a

wide range of neuropsychiatric conditions. Indeed, all forms of psychiatric disorders may be conceptualized as maladies of disrupted social homeostasis between the self and the social world. Thus, this approach is broadly applicable across multiple neuropsychiatric conditions that intersect with self-disorders and social impairments.


Representative papers:

  • Thakkar, K.N., Nichols, H.S., McIntosh, L.G., & Park, S. (2011). Disturbances in body ownership in patients with schizophrenia: evidence from the rubber hand illusion and case study of a spontaneous outof-body experience. PLOS One 6(10): e27089. PDF version
  • Thakkar, K.N., Schall, J.D., Heckers, S., & Park, S. (2015). Disrupted corollary discharge in schizophrenia. J Neuroscience. 35(27): 9935-9945. PDF version
  • Michael, J. & Park, S. (2016). Anomalous bodily experiences and perceived social isolation in schizophrenia: An extension of the Social Deafferentation Hypothesis. Schizophrenia Research. 176(2-3):392-7. PDF version
  • Torregrossa, L.J., Snodgress, M.A., Hong, S-J., Nichols, H.S., Glerean, E., Nummenmaa, L., &  Park, S. (2019). Anomalous Bodily Maps of Emotions in Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin 45(5):1060-1067PDF version