Depersonalization Puzzle: A New View from the Neurophenomenological Selfhood Perspective
While there is still a limited understanding of the Selfhood phenomenon, an emerging consensus is that the experiential Selfhood refers to a sense of the undergoing experience in its implicit first-person mode of givenness that is immediately and tacitly given as “mine”. It is also evident that there are phenomenological disruptions within self-consciousness ranging from normal everyday short-lived dissociative episodes to pathological, intense and prolonged forms of dissociative experience classified as depersonalization disorder (DD). In the present study we explored the neurophenomenology of Selfhood (using the recently introduced neurophysiological three-dimensional construct model of experiential Selfhood, Fingelkurts et al., 2020) in a newly diagnosed and untreated 29-year-old female who suffers from DD. According to the triad model of Selfhood, three major components of Selfhood (phenomenal first-person agency – “Self”, embodiment – “Me”, and reflection/narration – “I”) are related to three operational modules (OMs) of the self-referential brain network (reliably estimated by electroencephalogram operational synchrony analysis). We have found that subject with DD exhibited a strong enhancement of functional integrity of the brain Self-module, a moderate decrease in the functional integrity of Me-module, and a pronounced decrease in the functional integrity of I-module, – all of which were associated with severity of specific DD symptoms.
Keywords:Self-referential brain network (SRN), Default-mode network (DMN), Subjective sense of self, First-person perspective, Electroencephalogram (EEG), Alpha rhythm, Operational synchrony, Functional connectivity, Depersonalisation Disorder (DD), dissociative episodes, triad model of Selfhood,, Self-Me-I
Aderibigbe YA, Bloch RM and Walker WR. Prevalence of depersonalization and derealization experiences in a rural population. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 2001; 36(2): 63–69.
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013.
Andersen SB, Moore RA, Venables L and Corr PJ. Electrophysiological correlates of anxious rumination. International Journal of Psychophysiology 2009; 71: 156-169.
Beck AT, Epstein N, Brown G and Steer RA. An inventory for measuring clinical anxiety: Psychometric properties. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 1988; 56(6): 893–897.
Blanke O and Metzinger T. Full-body illusions and minimal phenomenal selfhood. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 2009; 13(1): 7–13.
Butler LD. Normative dissociation. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America 2006; 29(1): 45-62.
Churchland PS. Self-representation in nervous systems. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 2003; 1001: 31–38.
Ciaunica A, Charlton J and Farmer H. When the window cracks: Transparency and the fractured self in depersonalisation. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 2021; 20(1): 1–19.
Ciaunica A, Seth A, Limanowski J, Hesp C and Friston KJ. I overthink—Therefore I am not: An active inference account of altered sense of self and agency in depersonalisation disorder. Consciousness and Cognition 2022; 101: 103320.
Colombetti G and Ratcliffe M. Bodily feeling in depersonalization: A phenomenological account. Emotion Review 2012; 4(2): 145-150.
Congedo M and Lubar JF. Parametric and non-parametric analysis of QEEG: normative database comparisons in electroencephalography, a simulation study on accuracy. Journal of Neurotherapy 2003; 7: 1-29.
Craig AD. Human feelings: why are some more aware than others? Trends in Cognitive Sciences 2004; 8: 239–241.
Damasio AR. When Self Comes to Mind. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 2010.
Feinberg TE. The nested hierarchy of consciousness: a neurobiological solution to the problem of mental unity. Neurocase: The Neural Basis of Cognition 2000; 6: 75–81.
Fingelkurts AA and Fingelkurts AA. Brain–mind operational architectonics imaging: technical and methodological aspects. The Open Neuroimaging Journal 2008; 2: 73–93.
Fingelkurts AA and Fingelkurts AA. Alpha rhythm operational architectonics in the continuum of normal and pathological brain states: current state of research. International Journal of Psychophysiology 2010; 76: 93-106.
Fingelkurts AA and Fingelkurts AA. Persistent operational synchrony within brain default-mode network and self-processing operations in healthy subjects. Brain and Cognition 2011; 75: 79–90.
Fingelkurts AA and Fingelkurts AA. Operational architectonics methodology for EEG analysis: theory and results. NeuroMethods 2015; 91: 1–59.
Fingelkurts AA, Fingelkurts AA and Neves CFH. Natural world physical, brain operational, and mind phenomenal space–time. Physics of Life Reviews 2010; 7: 195–249.
Fingelkurts AA, Fingelkurts AA and Kallio-Tamminen T. Selfhood triumvirate: From phenomenology to brain activity and back again. Consciousness and Cognition 2020; 86: 103031.
Fingelkurts AA, Fingelkurts AA and Kallio-Tamminen T. Self, Me and I in the repertoire of spontaneously occurring altered states of Selfhood: eight neurophenomenological case study reports. Cognitive Neurodynamics 2022; 16: 255–282.
Freeman AM and Melges FT. Temporal disorganization, depersonalization, and persecutory ideation in acute mental illness. The American Journal of Psychiatry 1978; 135(1): 123–124.
Gallagher S. Philosophical conceptions of the self: Implications for cognitive science. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 2000; 4: 14–21.
Gallagher S. A pattern theory of self. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 2013; 7: 443.
Gardiner JM. Episodic memory and autonoetic consciousness: a first-person approach. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 2001; 356: 1351–1361.
Gerrans P. Depersonalization disorder, affective processing and predictive coding. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 2019; 10: 401–418.
Giesbrecht T, Merckelbach H, van Oorsouw K and Simeon D. Skin conductance and memory fragmentation after exposure to an emotional film clip in depersonalization disorder. Psychiatry Research 2010; 177: 342–349.
Girn M and Christoff K. Expanding the scientific study of self-experience with psychedelics. Journal of Consciousness Studies 2018; 25(11–12): 131–154.
Hamilton M. The assessment of anxiety states by rating. The British Journal of Medical Psychology 1959; 32: 50–55.
Hunter EC, Sierra M and David AS. The epidemiology of depersonalisation and derealisation. A systematic review. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 2004; 39(1): 9-18.
James W. Principles of Psychology. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1890.
Jirmunskaya EA and Losev VS. The notion of types in the EEG classification. Human Physiology 1980; 6: 1039-1045.
Klein SB. Autonoetic consciousness: reconsidering the role of episodic memory in future-oriented self-projection. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 2016; 69(2): 381–401.
Klimesch W, Doppelmayr M, Schimke H and Pachinger T. Alpha frequency, reaction time, and the speed of processing information. Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology 1996; 13: 511–518.
Kropotov JD. Quantitative EEG, Event-Related Potentials and Neurotherapy. Academic Press – Elsevier Inc, 2009.
Mayer-Gross WW. On depersonalization. British Journal of Medical Psychology 1935; 15: 103–122.
McDowell I. Measuring Health. A Guide to Rating Scales and Questionnaires (3rd Ed). New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Medford N, Sierra M, Baker D and David AS. Understanding and treating depersonalisation disorder. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 2005; 11: 92–100.
Metzinger T. Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003.
Metzinger T. M-Autonomy. Journal of Consciousness Studies 2015; 22(11-12): 270–302.
Michal M, Wiltink J, Subic-Wrana C, Zwerenz, R, Tuin I, Lichy M, Brähler E and Beutel ME. Prevalence, correlates, and predictors of depersonalization experiences in the German general population. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 2009; 197(7): 499–506.
Michal M, Reuchlein B, Adler J, Reiner I, Beutel ME, Vögele C, Schächinger H and Schulz A. Striking discrepancy of anomalous body experiences with normal interoceptive accuracy in depersonalization-derealization disorder. PLoS One 2014; 9(2): e89823.
Millière R. The varieties of selflessness. Philosophy and the Mind Sciences 2020; 1(I): 1–41.
Morin A. Self-awareness Part 1: Definition, measures, effects, functions, and antecedents. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 2011; 5(10): 807–823.
Musholt K. Thinking About Oneself: From Nonconceptual Content to the Concept of a Self. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2015.
Neisser U. Five kinds of self-knowledge. Philosophical Psychology 1988; 1: 35–59.
Northoff G. Is the self a higher-order or fundamental function of the brain? The ‘basis model of self-specificity’ and its encoding by the brain’s spontaneous activity. Cognitive Neuroscience 2016; 7: 203–222.
Panksepp J. On the embodied neural nature of the core emotional affects. Journal of Consciousness Studies 2005; 5: 158–184.
Pica M and Beere D. Dissociation during positive situations. Dissociation: Progress in the Dissociative Disorders 1995; 8: 241–246.
Quaedflieg CW, Giesbrecht T, Meijer E, Merckelbach H, de Jong PJ, Thorsteinsson H, Smeets T and Simeon D. Early emotional processing deficits in depersonalization: an exploration with event-related potentials in an undergraduate sample. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 2013; 212: 223–229.
Raichle ME, MacLeod AM, Snyder AZ, Powers WJ, Gusnard DA and Shulman GL. A default mode of brain function. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2001; 98: 676–682.
Revonsuo A. Inner Presence: Consciousness as a Biological Phenomenon. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006.
Rogala J, Kublik E, Krauz R and Wróbel A. Resting-state EEG activity predicts frontoparietal network reconfiguration and improved attentional performance. Scientific Reports 2020; 10: 5064.
Roth M. The phobic anxiety-depersonalization syndrome. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 1959; 52: 587-595.
Seligman R and Kirmayer LJ. Dissociative experience and cultural neuroscience: narrative, metaphor and mechanism. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 2008; 32(1): 31–64.
Seth AK, Suzuki K and Critchley HD. An interoceptive predictive coding model of conscious presence. Frontiers in Psychology 2012; 2: 395.
Sierra M. Depersonalization: A New Look at a Neglected Syndrome. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Sierra M and Berrios GE. The Cambridge Depersonalization Scale: A new instrument for the measurement of depersonalization. Psychiatry Research 2000; 93(2): 153–164.
Simeon D, Kozin DS, Segal K, Lerch B, Dujour R and Giesbrecht T. Deconstructing depersonalization: Further evidence for symptom clusters. Psychotherapy Research 2008; 157(1): 303–306.
Snodgrass JG and Thompson RL. The Self Across Psychology: Self-Recognition, Self-Awareness, and the Self-Concept. New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1997.
Sprinthall RC. Basic Statistical Analysis. (9th Ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson Education, 2011.
Strawson G. Selves: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Tibubos AN, Grammes J, Beutel ME, Michal M, Schmutzer G and Brähler E. Emotion regulation strategies moderate the relationship of fatigue with depersonalization and derealization symptoms. Journal of Affective Disorders 2018; 227: 571-579.
Travis F and Pearson C. Pure consciousness: Distinct phenomenological and physiological correlates of “consciousness itself”. The International Journal of Neuroscience 2000; 100: 77–89.
Tsakiris M, Tajadura-Jiménez A, Costantini M. Just a heartbeat away from one's body: interoceptive sensitivity predicts malleability of body-representations. Proceedings Biological Sciences 2011; 278: 2470-2476.
van Heugten-van der Kloet D, Giesbrecht T and Merckelbach H. Sleep loss increases dissociation and affects memory for emotional stimuli. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 2015; 47: 9-17.
Varela FJ. Neurophenomenology. A methodological remedy for the hard problem. Journal of Consciousness Studies 1996; 4: 330–349.
Velmans M. Conscious agency and the preconscious/unconscious Self. In: Menon S, Sinha A and Sreekantan BV. (Eds.), Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Consciousness and the Self. New Delhi: Springer, pp 11–25, 2014.
Williams GW. Highway hypnosis: A hypothesis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 1963; 11(3): 143-151.
Wittmann M. The inner sense of time: how the brain creates a representation of duration. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2013; 14: 217–223.
Zahavi D. Subjectivity and Selfhood: Investigating the First-Person Perspective. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2005.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2022 Andrew Fingelkurts, Alexander Fingelkurts
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Authors continue to hold copyright with no restrictions. This version is under the Creative Commons license (CC BY or CC BY-NC). For this reason authors may also publish the final paper in any repository or on any website with a complete citation of the paper.