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Objective: Alexithymia refers to an ineffective regulation and expression of emotions. It constitutes a major risk factor for a range of medical and psychiatric problems, including chronic pain, somatisation, anxiety and depression. Alexithymia is a multi-faceted concept, described in terms of cognitive and affective aspects. From a neuropsychological perspective, alexithymia can be defined as a disturbance in affective information processing and social cognition. As the growing literature on brain structures involved in alexithymia is fragmented and sometimes even contradictory, the aim of this article was to review findings on neural substrates with regard to their convergence.
Methods: A narrative review was performed, including both early neuropsychological and more recent imaging studies, in order to achieve a better understanding of the aetiology of alexithymia.
Results: Corpus callosum, cingulate cortex and insula are clearly involved in alexithymia. The amygdala and the orbitofrontal part of the cortex appear to be implicated as mediators, because of their broader involvement in emotional processing and executive control.
Conclusion: Notwithstanding the diffuse neural representation, the alexithymia construct can be usefully applied in the clinical and empirical studies of social cognition, particularly when adopting a dimensional neuropsychological approach.
Developmental adaptations due to early nutritional exposures may have permanent health consequences. Studies of diet and fetal size have mainly focused on individual nutrients despite evidence that the pattern of food consumption may be of significance. Hence, we evaluated the associations of dietary habits in early pregnancy (gestational age < 18 weeks) with fetal size, uteroplacental vascular resistance, placental weight and birth weight in a prospective observational study of 3207 Caucasian pregnant mothers in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Participants completed a semiquantitative FFQ during early pregnancy. Logistic regression analysis was used to predict the occurrence of intra-uterine growth retardation at birth as a function of food intake. The derived solution was considered as the dietary pattern. As it was characterised by higher intakes of fruit, vegetables, vegetable oil, fish, pasta and rice, and lower intakes of meat, potatoes and fatty sauces, it was labelled the ‘Mediterranean’ diet. The degree of adherence to the diet was positively associated with plasma folate and serum vitamin B12 concentrations and showed an inverse relationship with homocysteine and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein plasma concentrations (P <0·05). Important fetal size and placental parameters were associated with the degree of adherence to the diet, revealing a 72 g lower birth weight (95 % CI − 110·8, − 33·3) and a 15 g lower placental weight (95 % CI − 29·8, − 0·2) for women with low adherence to the diet. To conclude, low adherence to a Mediterranean diet in early pregnancy seems associated with decreased intra-uterine size with a lower placental and a lower birth weight.
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