The depersonalized brain: New evidence supporting a distinction between depersonalization and derealization from discrete patterns of autonomic suppression observed in a non-clinical sample

Hayley Dewe, Derrick G. Watson, Klaus Kessler, Jason J. Braithwaite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Depersonalization and Derealization are characterised by feelings of detachment from one’s bodily self/surroundings and a general emotional numbness. We explored predisposition to trait-based experiences of depersonalization/derealization-type experiences and autonomic arousal toward simulated body-threats, which were delivered to the participant’s own body (i.e. Self) and when observed being delivered to another individual (i.e. Other). Ninety participants took part in an “Implied Body-Threat Illusion” task (Dewe, Watson, & Braithwaite, 2016) and autonomic arousal was recorded via standardised skin conductance responses and finger temperature. Autonomic suppression in response to threats delivered to the Self correlated with increases in trait-based depersonalization-type experiences. In contrast, autonomic suppression for threats delivered to Others correlated with trait-based derealization-like experiences. Body-temperature and anticipatory arousal did not correlate reliably with predisposition to depersonalization- or derealization-type experiences. The theoretical implications of these findings are discussed in terms of a fronto-limbic autonomic suppression mechanism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-46
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Early online date18 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018



  • Anomalous body experience
  • Depersonalization
  • Derealization
  • Dissociation
  • Multisensory integration
  • Self-consciousness
  • Skin conductance responses (SCRs)

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