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A new science of emotion: implications for functional neurological disorder
  1. Johannes Jungilligens
  1. Department of Neurology at the University Hospital Knappschaftskrankenhaus Bochum in Germany


Johannes Jungilligens, PhD is a clinical neuropsychologist and affective neuroscience researcher focusing on neuropsychological and affective aspects of functional neurological disorder. Johannes is a post-doc at the Department of Neurology at the University Hospital Knappschaftskrankenhaus Bochum in Germany. After earning his PhD at Ruhr University Bochum, he was a visiting post-doc in the lab of Prof David Perez at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School. In his work as a clinician-researcher, he investigates the role of emotions, interoception, and metacognition in patients with functional neurological disorder using behavioral and neurobiological assessments.

Abstract Across ancient and modern times, functional neurological disorder has had a long and tumultuous history, with an evolving debate and understanding of how biopsychosocial factors (in early discussions also spiritual or supernatural elements) contribute to the manifestation of the disorder. A central issue in contemporary discussions has revolved around questioning the extent to which emotions play a mechanistic and aetiological role in functional neurological disorder. Critical in this context, however, is that this ongoing debate has largely omitted the question of what emotions are in the first place.

This talk first brings together advances in the understanding of working principles of the brain fundamental to introducing a new understanding of what emotions are. Building on a recent theoretical framework (the theory of constructed emotion; Lisa Feldman Barrett), the idea of how the predictive process of emotion construction can be an integral component of the pathophysiology of functional neurological disorder is discussed. This incorporates several themes including: (i) how chronic energy dysregulation can contribute to the emergence of neuropsychiatric illness, (ii) how functional neurological symptoms can occur in the process of aberrant emotion category construction, (iii) how the roles of alexithymia and ‘panic attack without panic’ can be re-conceptualized in this framework, and (iv) how life experiences influence emotion construction.

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