Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 73–91 | Cite as

The Neurophysiology of Dissociation and Chronic Disease

  • Robert C. Scaer


Dissociation as a clinical psychiatric condition has been defined primarily in terms of the fragmentation and splitting of the mind, and perception of the self and the body. Its clinical manifestations include altered perceptions and behavior, including derealization, depersonalization, distortions of perception of time, space, and body, and conversion hysteria. Using examples of animal models, and the clinical features of the whiplash syndrome, we have developed a model of dissociation linked to the phenomenon of freeze/immobility. Also employing current concepts of the psychobiology of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), we propose a model of PTSD linked to cyclical autonomic dysfunction, triggered and maintained by the laboratory model of kindling, and perpetuated by increasingly profound dorsal vagal tone and endorphinergic reward systems. These physiologic events in turn contribute to the clinical state of dissociation. The resulting autonomic dysregulation is presented as the substrate for a diverse group of chronic diseases of unknown origin.

autonomic nervous system conversion dissociation kindling RSD (reflex sympathetic dystrophy) 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert C. Scaer
    • 1
  1. 1.BoulderUSA

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