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Psychopathology Review
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Embodied cognition and emotional disorders: Embodiment and abstraction in understanding depression

  Bergljot Gjelsvik - Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  Darko Lovric - Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  Mark Williams - Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

In Press, Pages 1-50

Research into embodied cognition (EC) in cognitive neuroscience and psychology has risen exponentially over the last 25 years, covering a vast area of research; from understanding how ability to judge speech sounds depends on an intact motor cortex, to why people perceive hills as steeper when carrying a heavy backpack. Although there are many theories addressing these phenomena, increasing evidence across EC studies suggests simulation (i.e., reenactment of the motor –sensory aspects of meaning) as an important basis of knowledge. The authors 1) review evidence for the EC paradigm’s claim to simulation effects in cognition, suggesting that simulation exists within a “distributed plus hub” model, 2) discuss the implications of simulation for the understanding of cognitive dysfunctions in emotional disorders, particularly depression, 3) suggest that emotional disorders arises as a result of failed simulation processes, hypothesizing that semantic processing reactivates motor-sensory simulations previously associated with low mood (enactment/re-enactment networks), and that truncation of such simulation by means of over-use of language-based, abstract processing, motivated by a wish to reduce the affective disturbance associated with episodic, embodied representations, maintains psychopathology, 4) review evidence for effects of truncated simulation on emotional pathology, and 5) discuss the relevance of EC to treatments of emotional pathology.

Table of Contents
The Cognitive Paradigm
The Cognitive Theory and Therapy of Depression
The Embodied Paradigm – From Disembodied to Embodied Mind
Evidence for Role of Embodiment in Cognition
Challenges to Embodied Cognition: Context Specificity, “Never-Experienced” and Semantic Dementia
Embodiment and Emotional Disorders
Differential Activation of Enactment / Re-Enactment Networks (ERNs)
Embodied Cognition and the Over-Generality of Autobiographical Memory
Abstract thinking as an escape from embodiment.
When Abstraction Becomes Self-perpetuating: Discrepancy-Based Processing
Experimental Studies that Manipulate Level of Abstraction
Clinical Studies that Increase Embodied Processing
Suggestions for Further Research
Appendix A

Correspondence to
Dr. Bergljot Gjelsvik, University of Oxford Department of Psychiatry. Oxford Mindfulness Centre, Warneford Hospital, Oxford. OX3 7JX.

grounded cognition, embodied cognition, psychopathology, emotional disorders, depression

Received 23 Jan 2014; Revised 30 Jul 2014; Accepted 15 Sep 2013; In Press 1 Oct 2015

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