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Title: The relationship between somatoform dissociation and illusory sensations of touch : testing the integrative cognitive model of medically unexplained symptoms
Author: Brunt, Natalie
ISNI:       0000 0001 3506 3333
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2008
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The phenomenon of medically unexplained symptoms (MUS), physical symptoms without organic cause, has been studied since the late 19th century (e.g. Janet 1889, 1907). Until recently, however, no single theory has successfully amalgamated all the available data and offered an inclusive account of the psychological processes involved in MUS. This thesis describes a study designed to investigate predictions of an integrative conceptual model of MUS (Brown, 2004), which holds that symptom memory-focused attention causes intrusion of these memories into conscious awareness, resulting in MUS. In so doing, the study also tested the validity of a possible laboratory analogue of MUS. Participants prone to experience MUS, as measured by the Somatoform Dissociation Questionnaire (SDQ-20; Nijenhuis, et aI., 1996), were randomly allocated to one of two conditions (high tactile recall condition versus low tactile recall condition). All participants viewed a series of pictures, some of which were associated with variants of tactile stimuli. Following this, in the high tactile recall condition, participants were shown and asked questions about a larger proportion of tactile stimulus-associated pictures. Participants in the low tactile recall condition were shown and asked questions about a larger proportion of pictures not associated with a tactile stimulus. The high tactile recall task aimed to increase the activation of participants' tactile memories. Participants subsequently completed a somatosensory signal detection task (SSDT) in which they stated whether or not they detected a tactile stimulus across four trial variants (tactile stimulus only trials, tactile stimulus plus light stimulus trials, light only trials and no stimulus/'catch' trials). As predicted, the high SDQ-20 group reported more false alarms (reports of a touch sensation in the absence of tactile stimulation) and consequently demonstrated a more lenient response criterion, than the low SDQ-20 group. There were no differences in tactile sensitivity or 'hit' responses (correct identifications of tactile stimulation). These findings support the idea of the SSDT as a laboratory analogue of MUS. Contrary to predictions, tactile recall condition did not affect SSDT performance. Possible explanations for the findings are considered. These findings have empirical and clinical implications for MUS, however replication in clinical samples is crucial.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available