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Arresting visuospatial stimulation is insufficient to disrupt analogue traumatic intrusions

Meyer, T; Brewin, CR; King, JA; Nijmeijer, D; Woud, ML; Becker, ES; (2020) Arresting visuospatial stimulation is insufficient to disrupt analogue traumatic intrusions. PLoS One , 15 (2) , Article e0228416. 10.1371/journal.pone.0228416. Green open access

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Abstract

Intrusive memories are a core symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A growing body of analogue studies using trauma films suggest that carrying out specific demanding tasks (e.g., playing the video game Tetris, pattern tapping) after the analogue trauma can reduce intrusive memories. To examine the mechanism behind this effect, we tested whether mere engagement with attention-grabbing and interesting visual stimuli disrupts intrusive memories, and whether this depends on working memory resources and/or the concurrent activation of trauma film memories. In a total sample of 234 healthy participants, we compared no-task control conditions to a perceptual rating task with visually arresting video clips (i.e., non-emotional, complex, moving displays), to a less arresting task with non-moving, blurred pictures (Study 1), and to more demanding imagery tasks with and without repetitive reminders of the trauma film (Study 2). Generally, we found moderate to strong evidence that none of the conditions lead to differences in intrusion frequency. Moreover, our data suggest that intrusive memories were neither related to individual differences in working memory capacity (i.e., operation span performance; Study 1), nor to the degree of engagement with a visuospatial task (i.e., one-week recognition performance; Study 2). Taken together, our findings suggest that the boundary conditions for successful interference with traumatic intrusions may be more complex and subtle than assumed. Future studies may want to test the role of prediction errors during (re-)consolidation, deliberate efforts to suppress thoughts, or the compatibility of the task demands with the individual's skills.

Type: Article
Title: Arresting visuospatial stimulation is insufficient to disrupt analogue traumatic intrusions
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0228416
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228416
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10091001
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