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      Source memory errors associated with reports of posttraumatic flashbacks: A proof of concept study

      brief-report
      * , ,
      Cognition
      Elsevier
      PTSD, False memory, Flashbacks, Trauma, Imagery

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          Abstract

          Flashbacks are involuntary, emotion-laden images experienced by individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The qualities of flashbacks could under certain circumstances lead to source memory errors. Participants with PTSD wrote a trauma narrative and reported the experience of flashbacks. They were later presented with stimuli from flashback and non-flashback parts of their narrative, mixed with foils from the narrative of another participant, and judged whether they belonged to their own narrative. They also reported whether stimuli elicited a flashback during this recognition test. Overall reporting a flashback at test was associated with significantly better recognition performance. Flashbacks were occasionally reported to foil stimuli, which were then likely to be wrongly attributed to the person’s own narrative. This provides proof of concept of a cognitive mechanism that could potentially account for some cases of false trauma memories.

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          Most cited references35

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          Intrusive re-experiencing in post-traumatic stress disorder: phenomenology, theory, and therapy.

          The article describes features of trauma memories in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including characteristics of unintentional re-experiencing symptoms and intentional recall of trauma narratives. Reexperiencing symptoms are usually sensory impressions and emotional responses from the trauma that appear to lack a time perspective and a context. The vast majority of intrusive memories can be interpreted as re-experiencing of warning signals, i.e., stimuli that signalled the onset of the trauma or of moments when the meaning of the event changed for the worse. Triggers of re-experiencing symptoms include stimuli that have perceptual similarity to cues accompanying the traumatic event. Intentional recall of the trauma in PTSD may be characterised by confusion about temporal order, and difficulty in accessing important details, both of which contribute to problematic appraisals. Recall tends to be disjointed. When patients with PTSD deliberately recall the worst moments of the trauma, they often do not access other relevant (usually subsequent) information that would correct impressions/predictions made at the time. A theoretical analysis of re-experiencing symptoms and their triggers is offered, and implications for treatment are discussed. These include the need to actively incorporate updating information ("I know now ...") into the worst moments of the trauma memory, and to train patients to discriminate between the stimuli that were present during the trauma ("then") and the innocuous triggers of re-experiencing symptoms ("now").
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            Criteria-Based Content Analysis: A Qualitative Review of the First 37 Studies.

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              The nature and significance of memory disturbance in posttraumatic stress disorder.

              Disturbances in aspects of memory described in current learning and cognitive theories are much more strongly associated with the presence of psychiatric disorder than with mere exposure to traumatic events. In posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there are numerous associated changes that involve memory capacity, the content of memories for trauma, and a variety of memory processes. Whereas some changes appear to reflect the effects of the disorder, other evidence supports a predictive or causal role for memory disturbance. The following aspects of memory are likely to play a causal role in the development or maintenance of PTSD: verbal memory deficits, negative conceptual knowledge concerning the self, overgeneral memory, avoidance or suppression of memories, and negative interpretation of memory symptoms. Other aspects of memory likely to play a causal role that are in addition specific to PTSD are the integration of the trauma with identity, impairment in retrieval of voluntary trauma memories, and increased incidence of sensation-based memories or flashbacks. © 2011 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Cognition
                Cognition
                Cognition
                Elsevier
                0010-0277
                1873-7838
                August 2012
                August 2012
                : 124
                : 2
                : 234-238
                Affiliations
                Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology, University College London, UK
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author. Address: Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK. Tel.: +44 207 679 5927; fax: +44 207 916 1989. c.brewin@ 123456ucl.ac.uk
                Article
                COGNIT2438
                10.1016/j.cognition.2012.05.002
                3396838
                22658646
                c7adaeb9-ab94-4ca8-b80b-956142bc814e
                © 2012 Elsevier B.V.

                This document may be redistributed and reused, subject to certain conditions.

                Categories
                Brief Article

                Neurosciences
                ptsd,false memory,flashbacks,imagery,trauma
                Neurosciences
                ptsd, false memory, flashbacks, imagery, trauma

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