Selective Attention, Memory Bias, and Symptom Perception in Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance and Somatoform Disorders

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Idiopathic environmental intolerance (IEI) refers to a polysymptomatic condition, similar to somatoform disorders. Various processes seem to contribute to its yet unknown etiology. Attention and memory for somatic symptom and IEI-trigger words was compared among participants with IEI (n = 54), somatoform disorders (SFD; n = 44) and control participants (n = 54). Groups did not differ in a dot-probe task. However, in an emotional Stroop task, attention was biased in IEI and SFD groups toward symptom words but not toward IEI-trigger words. Only the IEI group rated trigger words as more unpleasant and more arousing, and participants remembered them better in a recognition task. These implicit and explicit cognitive abnormalities in IEI and SFD may maintain processes of somatosensory amplification.

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