Visuospatial context learning and configuration learning is associated with analogue traumatic intrusions

T. Meyer, J. Krans, V. van Ast, T. Smeets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Background and objectives
Cognitive and information processing theories of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) assert that trauma intrusions are characterized by poor contextual embedding of visuospatial memories. Therefore, efficient encoding of visuospatial contextual information might protect against intrusions. We tested this idea using indices of visuospatial memory embedding along with the trauma film paradigm.

Methods
Individual differences in spatial configuration learning, as well as the degree to which visual recognition memory depends on its visual encoding context (i.e., memory contextualization), were assessed in 81 healthy participants. Next, participants viewed a distressing film. Intrusions and other PTSD analogue symptoms were assessed subsequently.

Results
Participants displaying stronger memory contextualization developed fewer intrusions and PTSD analogue symptoms. Spatial configuration learning was unrelated to memory contextualization and, contrary to prior findings, predicted higher levels of intrusions.

Limitations
Due to the analogue design, our findings may not translate directly to clinical populations. Furthermore, due to the correlational design of the study, causal relations remain to be tested.

Conclusions
Our results suggest a protective role for the ability to integrate memories in their original visual learning context against the development of PTSD symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-127
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Volume54
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

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