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Memory function is at the core of the psychopathology of dissociative identity disorder (DID), but little is known about its psychobiological correlates.
This study aims to investigate whether memory function in DID differs between dissociative identity states
Behavioural data and neural activation patterns were assessed in 92 sessions during an n-back working memory task. Participants were people with genuine diagnosed DID (n = 14), DID-simulating controls (n = 16) and a paired control group (post-traumatic stress disorder (n = 16), healthy controls (n = 16)). Both DID groups participated as authentic or simulated neutral and trauma-related identity states. Reaction times and errors of omission were analysed with repeated measures ANOVA. Working memory neural activation (main working memory and linear load) was investigated for effects of identity state, participant group and their interaction.
Identity state-dependent behavioural performance and neural activation was found. DID simulators made fewer errors of omission than those with genuine DID. Regarding the prefrontal parietal network, main working memory in the left frontal pole and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (Brodmann area 44) was activated in all three simulated neutral states, and in trauma-related identity states of DID simulators, but not those with genuine DID or post-traumatic stress disorder; for linear load, trauma-related identity states of those with genuine DID did not engage the parietal regions.
Behavioural performance and neural activation patterns related to working memory in DID are dependent on the dissociative identities involved. The narrowed consciousness of trauma-related identity states, with a proneness to re-experiencing traumatising events, may relate to poorer working memory functioning.
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