Emotion processing in joint hypermobility

Emotion processing in joint hypermobility: A potential link to the neural bases of anxiety and related somatic symptoms in collagen anomalies. – PubMed – NCBI – Eur Psychiatry. 2015 Feb

Joint hypermobility syndrome (JHS) has repeatedly been associated with anxiety and anxiety disorders, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and temporomandibular joint disorder.

However, the neural underpinnings of these associations still remain unclear.

This study explored brain responses to facial visual stimuli with emotional cues using fMRI techniques in general population with different ranges of hypermobility.  


51 non-clinical volunteers (33 women) completed state and trait anxiety questionnaire measures, were assessed with a clinical examination for hypermobility (Beighton system) and performed an emotional face processing paradigm during functional neuroimaging.


Trait anxiety scores did significantly correlate with both state anxiety and hypermobility scores.

BOLD signals of the hippocampus did positively correlate with hypermobility scores for the crying faces versus neutral faces contrast in ROI analyses.

No results were found for any of the other studied ROIs.

Additionally, hypermobility scores were also associated with other key affective processing areas in the whole brain analysis.

These are the key affective processing areas:

  • the middle and anterior cingulate gyrus,
  • fusiform gyrus,
  • parahippocampal region,
  • orbitofrontal cortex and
  • cerebellum


Hypermobility scores are associated with trait anxiety and higher brain responses to emotional faces in emotion processing brain areas (including hippocampus) described to be linked to anxiety and somatic symptoms.

These findings increase our understanding of emotion processing in people bearing this heritable variant of collagen and the mechanisms through which vulnerability to anxiety and somatic symptoms arises in this population.  

I’ve long felt like my emotional instability arises from lax boundaries just like my physical instability arises from lax ligaments. It seems a natural correspondence.

But over the last several years, I feel cognitive instability as well, as my short term memory seems to be shrinking. Sometimes I can only hold two things in my mind at once. If a third is added, I forget one or both of the first two.



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