Dissociative phenomena are frequently experienced by psychologically traumatized people. However, little is known about the cognitive profiles of highly dissociative traumatized individuals, and corresponding patterns of neural connectivity when attentional networks are engaged in the context of emotion. One hundred seventeen traumatized women completed the multiscale dissociation inventory (MDI) and neuropsychological testing; MDI scores were used to classify high-and low-dissociative participants. Forty-six participants also underwent fMRI during performance of an attentional control task that incorporates emotionally distracting images (Affective Number Stroop; ANS). Compared to low-dissociative participants, high-dissociative participants demonstrated better performance on an executive functioning task (F1,111 = 4.64, p = .03), worse performance on a task of visual memory (F1,111 = 9.52, p = .003), and similar performance on all other neuropsychological measures. In addition, dissociative symptoms were negatively correlated with functional connectivity between the amygdala and right anterior insula in response to trauma-related ANS trials. These findings indicate that highly dissociative traumatized people experience difficulties with attentional control in the context of emotionally evocative stimuli, but in a neutral context, their overall cognitive profiles are similar to low-dissociative people. Highly dissociative participants also demonstrated weaker connectivity between the amygdala and insula in response to trauma-relevant images. Evocative, trauma-relevant stimuli appear to disrupt neutral networks involved with attention to salient cues and interoception in highly dissociative traumatized individuals.
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