Pre-Stressor Interference Control and Intrusive Memories

J. Verwoerd, I. Wessel, P.J. De Jong, Maurice Nieuwenhuis, R.J.C. Huntjens

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Abstract

Although intrusive imagery is a common response in the aftermath of a stressful or traumatic event, only a minority of trauma victims show persistent re-experiencing and related psychopathology. Individual differences in pre-trauma executive control possibly play a critical role. Therefore, this study investigated whether a relatively poor pre-stressor ability to resist proactive interference in working memory might increase risk for experiencing undesirable intrusive memories after being exposed to a stressful event. Non-clinical participants (N = 85) completed a modified version of a widely used test of interference control in working memory (CVLT; Kramer and Delis 1991) and subsequently watched an emotional film fragment. Following presentation of the fragment, intrusive memories were recorded in a 1-week diary and at a follow up session 7 days later. A relatively poor ability to resist proactive interference was related to a relatively high frequency of film-related intrusive memories. This relationship was independent of neuroticism and gender. These findings are consistent with the idea that a pre-morbid deficit in the ability to resist proactive interference reflects a vulnerability factor for experiencing intrusive memories after trauma exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-170
Number of pages10
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Volume35
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2011

Keywords

  • Intrusive memories
  • Proactive interference
  • Executive control
  • Trauma-film paradigm
  • LATENT-VARIABLE ANALYSIS
  • INDIVIDUAL-DIFFERENCES
  • WORKING-MEMORY
  • EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS
  • TRAUMATIC EVENTS
  • DISORDER
  • ATTENTION
  • SYMPTOMS
  • IMPACT
  • PTSD

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