Association between alexithymia and impaired reward valuation in patients with fronto-insular damage.

Jeremy Hogeveen*, Frank Krueger, Jordan Grafman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Humans compute the anticipated reward value of stimuli in their environment in order to behave in an adaptive, goal-directed manner. This reward valuation ability is vital, and its disruption in a range of clinical populations has profound personal and social consequences. However, research has often failed to consider the reward-related functions of a central component of human emotion: conscious emotional experience. Alexithymia—a condition characterized by diminished conscious awareness of one's emotions—offers a unique opportunity to examine the link between emotional awareness and reward valuation. In the present study, we measured both acquired alexithymia and reward valuation ability in a large sample of patients with traumatic brain injuries (N = 112). Behavioral analyses provided evidence for a negative association between alexithymia and reward valuation ability. This association remained significant after controlling for several covariates in the model (anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and IQ). Voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping was carried out to identify brain regions-of-interest (ROIs) that, when damaged, lead to increased alexithymia and impaired reward valuation. Importantly, mediation models computed using the ROIs identified through the voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping revealed a specific indirect effect of left frontoinsular damage on impaired valuation that was mediated by increased levels of alexithymia. This indirect effect was not observed for any of the other candidate ROIs. The present study identifies a network of brain regions likely to be involved in the integration of subjective feelings and reward processes critical for the adaptive control of goal-directed behavior. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-147
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • alexithymia
  • emotional awareness
  • insula
  • lesion-symptom mapping
  • reward valuation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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