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[PUBLICATION] Beyond Clinical Outcomes: Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms Favor Attentional and Memory Control Abilities for Trauma-Related Words

  • Recherche,
  • Santé-Sciences-Technologie,
  • Santé-social,
Date(s)

le 3 juillet 2020

Published in J Trauma Stress

Collaborative research project led by Prof. David Clarys (Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition et l'Apprentissage, UMR CNRS 7295, Université de Poitiers, Poitiers, France) in which Prof. Wissam El-Hage participated

Beyond Clinical Outcomes: Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms Favor Attentional and Memory Control Abilities for Trauma-Related Words

Abstract

Memory alterations and biases are core features of posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). Although a large number of studies have investigated memory biases associated with PTSS, some inconsistencies remain regarding the nature of the mechanisms behind the threat-related biases observed in prior findings. The present study explored the extent to which inhibitory deficits, both for automatic and controlled processes, can account for these biases. Participants (N = 64) took part in a remember/know recognition procedure for positive, neutral, negative, and trauma-related words associated with negative priming and directed forgetting encoding. Half of the participants had high levels of PTSS (i.e., PCL-5 score > 40) and half had low levels (i.e., total PCL-5 score < 20). As both negative priming and directed forgetting effects are posited to depend on inhibitory abilities, we expected these effects to be absent for trauma-related words in participants with more severe PTSS. Replicating classic memory biases, participants with high levels of PTSS produced more "remember" recognition responses for trauma-related words, ηp 2 = .10. However, contrary to our expectations, directed forgetting, ηp 2 = .26; and negative priming effects were observed for trauma-related words but not for words of other valences, ηp 2 = .07 and .06, respectively. Hence, rather than the expected inhibitory deficits, our results suggest that PTSS preserve the ability to inhibit trauma-related information in both attentional and memory processes. As it appears to occur at the expense of other information, this preserved cognitive functioning for trauma-related stimuli is discussed with regard to resource reallocation theories.

© 2020 International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

Contact :
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