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Title: Heritability and visual information processing in Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Author: Monzani, Benny
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental disorder characterised by an excessive preoccupation with a perceived defect in physical appearance, associated with significant distress and/or functional impairment as well as markedly high suicide rates. Its aetiology remains largely unknown, though believed to be related to a complex interplay of genetic, neurobiological, psychological and socio-­‐cultural factors. Despite the alarmingly high suicide rates and the severity of this illness, BDD is widely under-diagnosed and under-investigated compared to other psychiatric conditions. The distinct studies included in this PhD will address some core questions about the heritability of BDD and its etiological relation to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Related Disorders (OCRDs); the current thesis also aims to investigate holistic visual processing in BDD. Specifically, using twin modelling methods, Studies 1 to 4 aimed to examine the heritability of BDD symptoms and skin picking behaviours in a large twin sample and to estimate the extent to which BDD shares genetic and environmental risk factors with other OCRDs (i.e. OCD, Hoarding Disorder, Trichotillomania and Skin Picking Disorder). Clinical observations, neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies suggest a tendency of BDD patients to selectively attend to details and excessively focus on minor flaws in physical appearance. Hence, the aim of Study 5 was to investigate the integrity of holistic visual processes in 25 BDD, compared to 25 healthy controls, using the inversion, composite, and navon tasks. The results of Studies 1 to 4 showed that BDD and OCRDs symptoms are moderately heritable traits, sharing a complex genetic architecture. Study 5 provided converging evidence from three experimental paradigms to suggest intact global visual processing in BDD. The findings have important implications for guiding genetic research and the study of environmental risk factors for BDD and OCRDs as well as for encouraging further examination of visual processing in BDD.
Supervisor: Mataix-Cols, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available