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      Intrusive Memories of Trauma in the Laboratory: Methodological Developments and Future Directions

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          Purpose of the Review

          Intrusive memories are those that spring to mind unbidden, e.g. sensory recollections of stressful/traumatic events. We review recent methods to monitor intrusions of a stressor (a trauma film) within the laboratory.

          Recent Findings

          Recent studies suggest three main methodologies after viewing a trauma film by which to monitor intrusions in the laboratory: during post-film rest periods, after exposure to trigger cues, and while performing an ongoing task. These approaches allow factors to be tested (e.g. psychological or pharmacological) that may influence the frequency of occurrence of intrusions.


          We raise methodological considerations to guide trauma film studies using intrusion monitoring in the laboratory to complement monitoring approaches in daily life (e.g. diaries). Intrusion monitoring in the laboratory also confers greater experimental control and may open novel research avenues, to advance intervention development to mitigate problematic intrusive memory symptoms.

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          Most cited references 52

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          The amygdala modulates the consolidation of memories of emotionally arousing experiences.

           James McGaugh (2003)
          Converging findings of animal and human studies provide compelling evidence that the amygdala is critically involved in enabling us to acquire and retain lasting memories of emotional experiences. This review focuses primarily on the findings of research investigating the role of the amygdala in modulating the consolidation of long-term memories. Considerable evidence from animal studies investigating the effects of posttraining systemic or intra-amygdala infusions of hormones and drugs, as well as selective lesions of specific amygdala nuclei, indicates that (a) the amygdala mediates the memory-modulating effects of adrenal stress hormones and several classes of neurotransmitters; (b) the effects are selectively mediated by the basolateral complex of the amygdala (BLA); (c) the influences involve interactions of several neuromodulatory systems within the BLA that converge in influencing noradrenergic and muscarinic cholinergic activation; (d) the BLA modulates memory consolidation via efferents to other brain regions, including the caudate nucleus, nucleus accumbens, and cortex; and (e) the BLA modulates the consolidation of memory of many different kinds of information. The findings of human brain imaging studies are consistent with those of animal studies in suggesting that activation of the amygdala influences the consolidation of long-term memory; the degree of activation of the amygdala by emotional arousal during encoding of emotionally arousing material (either pleasant or unpleasant) correlates highly with subsequent recall. The activation of neuromodulatory systems affecting the BLA and its projections to other brain regions involved in processing different kinds of information plays a key role in enabling emotionally significant experiences to be well remembered.
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            A dual representation theory of posttraumatic stress disorder.

            A cognitive theory of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is proposed that assumes traumas experienced after early childhood give rise to 2 sorts of memory, 1 verbally accessible and 1 automatically accessible through appropriate situational cues. These different types of memory are used to explain the complex phenomenology of PTSD, including the experiences of reliving the traumatic event and of emotionally processing the trauma. The theory considers 3 possible outcomes of the emotional processing of trauma, successful completion, chronic processing, and premature inhibition of processing We discuss the implications of the theory for research design, clinical practice, and resolving contradictions in the empirical data.
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              Mental imagery in emotion and emotional disorders.

              Mental imagery has been considered relevant to psychopathology due to its supposed special relationship with emotion, although evidence for this assumption has been conspicuously lacking. The present review is divided into four main sections: (1) First, we review evidence that imagery can evoke emotion in at least three ways: a direct influence on emotional systems in the brain that are responsive to sensory signals; overlap between processes involved in mental imagery and perception which can lead to responding "as if" to real emotion-arousing events; and the capacity of images to make contact with memories for emotional episodes in the past. (2) Second, we describe new evidence confirming that imagery does indeed evoke greater emotional responses than verbal representation, although the extent of emotional response depends on the image perspective adopted. (3) Third, a heuristic model is presented that contrasts the generation of language-based representations with imagery and offers an account of their differing effects on emotion, beliefs and behavior. (4) Finally, based on the foregoing review, we discuss the role of imagery in maintaining emotional disorders, and its uses in psychological treatment. Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                Curr Behav Neurosci Rep
                Curr Behav Neurosci Rep
                Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports
                Springer International Publishing (Cham )
                31 January 2018
                31 January 2018
                : 5
                : 1
                : 61-71
                [1 ]ISNI 0000000121885934, GRID grid.5335.0, Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, School of Clinical Medicine, , University of Cambridge, ; Cambridge, UK
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0001 2322 6764, GRID grid.13097.3c, Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, , King’s College London, ; London, UK
                [3 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1937 0626, GRID grid.4714.6, Division of Psychology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, , Karolinska Institutet, ; Stockholm, Sweden
                [4 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1936 8948, GRID grid.4991.5, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, , University of Oxford, ; Oxford, UK
                © The Author(s) 2018

                Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

                Funded by: FundRef, Wellcome Trust;
                Award ID: 098461/Z/12/Z
                Award Recipient :
                Mood and Anxiety Disorders (C Harmer, Section Editor)
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                © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018


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