How people process the social stigma of having visible skin lesions is reported in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
Psoriasis can be an unseemly skin condition that manifests itself as skin lesions and scaly patches and is sometimes untreatable. The adverse psychological consequences on sufferers has been noted though has not been studied in detail.
Christopher Griffiths and colleagues studied male patients who had chronic psoriasis. Using functional MRI they looked at how the participant's insular cortex - the area of the brain associated with both the feelings and observation of disgust - responded to images of disgusted faces. The scientists found a weaker response in the insular cortex of men with psoriasis than in healthy controls.
The authors suggest that one possible explanation for this finding is that psoriasis patients develop a coping mechanism to protect them from the stressful emotional responses of others to their visible skin condition and the brain blocks the processing of disgusted facial expressions.
These findings may lead to future strategies for managing other stigmatizing diseases and conditions.
Christopher Griffiths (University of Manchester, UK)
Abstract available online.
(C) Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
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