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OBJECTIVE: Unexplained neurological symptoms ("somatoform dissociation") are common in health care settings and associated with disproportionately high levels of distress, disability, and resource utilization. Theory suggests that somatoform dissociation is associated with disturbed attentional processing, but there is a paucity of research in this area and the available evidence is contradictory. METHODS: We compared undergraduate participants (n=124) with high and low scores on the Somatoform Dissociation Questionnaire (SDQ-20) on a tactile cueing paradigm measuring the time course of attention to touch, following either a neutral film or a film designed to simulate the emotional effects of trauma exposure. RESULTS: Following the neutral film, high SDQ-20 participants exhibited delayed disengagement from tactile cue stimuli compared to the low SDQ-20 group. Following the "trauma" film, however, the high SDQ-20 group showed attentional effects suggesting avoidance of the tactile stimuli in this condition. Early attention to tactile cues following the trauma film predicted film-related intrusive thoughts after the experiment. CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that both body vigilance and body avoidance may be involved in the expression of somatoform dissociation.

Original publication




Journal article


J Psychosom Res

Publication Date





249 - 257


Adult, Analysis of Variance, Attention, Cues, Emotions, Female, Humans, Male, Sensory Thresholds, Somatoform Disorders, Surveys and Questionnaires, Touch Perception