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Perceptual processing advantages for trauma-related visual cues in post-traumatic stress disorder


Kleim, B; Ehring, T; Ehlers, A (2011). Perceptual processing advantages for trauma-related visual cues in post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychological Medicine:1-9.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Intrusive re-experiencing in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comprises distressing sensory impressions from the trauma that seem to occur 'out of the blue'. A key question is how intrusions are triggered. One possibility is that PTSD is characterized by a processing advantage for stimuli that resemble those that accompanied the trauma, which would lead to increased detection of such cues in the environment.MethodWe used a blurred picture identification task in a cross-sectional (n=99) and a prospective study (n=221) of trauma survivors.

RESULTS: Participants with acute stress disorder (ASD) or PTSD, but not trauma survivors without these disorders, identified trauma-related pictures, but not general threat pictures, better than neutral pictures. There were no group differences in the rate of trauma-related answers to other picture categories. The relative processing advantage for trauma-related pictures correlated with re-experiencing and dissociation, and predicted PTSD at follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: A perceptual processing bias for trauma-related stimuli may contribute to the involuntary triggering of intrusive trauma memories in PTSD.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Intrusive re-experiencing in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comprises distressing sensory impressions from the trauma that seem to occur 'out of the blue'. A key question is how intrusions are triggered. One possibility is that PTSD is characterized by a processing advantage for stimuli that resemble those that accompanied the trauma, which would lead to increased detection of such cues in the environment.MethodWe used a blurred picture identification task in a cross-sectional (n=99) and a prospective study (n=221) of trauma survivors.

RESULTS: Participants with acute stress disorder (ASD) or PTSD, but not trauma survivors without these disorders, identified trauma-related pictures, but not general threat pictures, better than neutral pictures. There were no group differences in the rate of trauma-related answers to other picture categories. The relative processing advantage for trauma-related pictures correlated with re-experiencing and dissociation, and predicted PTSD at follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: A perceptual processing bias for trauma-related stimuli may contribute to the involuntary triggering of intrusive trauma memories in PTSD.

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18 citations in Web of Science®
19 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Date:2011
Deposited On:28 Nov 2011 10:44
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:08
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:0033-2917
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291711001048
PubMed ID:21733208

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