Spotlight on Automatic-voluntary dissociation

Automatic-voluntary dissociation is the differential completion of an action depending on the patient’s attention to the task. Activities can be performed either attentively (“voluntarily”) or inattentively (“automatically”). Thus, 2 kinds of automatic-voluntary dissociation can occur. The kind that is more often described refers to the patient’s inability to complete an action voluntarily (attentively), but ability to do so automatically (inattentively). Less often described is the dissociation whereby activities are completed voluntarily, but not automatically, although this kind of dissociation is actually common. Recognizing automatic-voluntary dissociation in a patient may suggest potential methods for therapy for the concerned impairment, some of which have been developed.

In this article, Dr. Victor Mark of the University of Alabama at Birmingham reviews the many different manifestations of this phenomenon and discusses its implications for patient management.

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