Derick Rethans has posted another article about Xdebug and some of the changes made in the most recent release, version 2.3. In his previous post he talked about the improvements to var_dump and in this one he shares updates to the xdebug_debug_zval handling.
xdebug_debug_zval() has been around for quite some time, to provide correct information about how PHP internally stores a variable. Unlike PHP's built in debug_zval_dump() function, it does not modify the variable information that it tries to show. This is because instead of passing in a variable, you pass in its name. Passing a variable into a function, can modify the various parameters that are associated with this variable, such as the is_ref and refcount fields.
He includes a bit of background about what the function is used for and then shows the difference it has in 2.3: the ability to handle nested data structures including property dereference support. He includes a few code examples showing the use of the function and the output it would generate for both an array and an object.