Dissociation and other trauma symptomatology are linked to imbalance in the competing neurobehavioral decision systems

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Frontiers Media


Objective: Dissociation is a conscious state characterized by alterations in sensation and perception and is thought to arise from traumatic life experiences. Previous research has demonstrated that individuals with high levels of dissociation show impairments in cognitive-emotional processes. Therefore, using the Competing Neurobehavioral Decisions System (CNDS) theory, we used statistical modeling to examine whether dissociative experience and trauma symptoms are independently predicted by impulsivity, risk-seeking, affective state (i.e., anxiety, depression, stress, and negative affect), and trauma history.

Method: In this cross-sectional study design, data were collected via Amazon Mechanical Turk from a total of n = 557 English-speaking participants in the United States. Using Qualtrics, participants answered a series of self-reported questionnaires and completed several neurocognitive tasks. Three independent multiple linear regression models were conducted to assess whether impulsivity, risk seeking, affective state, and trauma history predict depersonalization, trauma symptoms, and PTSD symptoms.

Results: As hypothesized, we found that depersonalization and other trauma symptoms are associated with heightened impulsivity, increased risk-seeking, impaired affective states, and a history of traumatic experiences.

Conclusion: We demonstrate that an imbalanced CNDS (i.e., hyperimpulsive/ hypoexecutive), as evidenced by decreased future valuation, increased risk seeking, and impaired affective states, predicts heightened depersonalization and other trauma and PTSD symptomatology. This is the first time that dissociation has been connected to delay discounting (i.e., the tendency to place more value on rewards received immediately compared to farther in the future). Interventions that positively impact areas of the CNDS, such as episodic future thinking or mindfulness meditation, may be a target to help decrease dissociative symptoms.



depersonalization, derealization, trauma, delay discounting, temporal discounting, competing neurobehavioral decisions systems theory


Basso JC, Satyal MK, McKee KL, Lynn S, Gyamfi D and Bickel WK (2024) Dissociation and other trauma symptomatology are linked to imbalance in the competing neurobehavioral decision systems. Front. Psychol. 14:1317088. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1317088