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Behav Res Ther. 2011 Aug;49(8):498-504. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2011.05.007. Epub 2011 May 27.

Emotional working memory capacity in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK.


Participants with a lifetime history of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma-exposed controls with no PTSD history completed an emotional working memory capacity (eWMC) task. The task required them to remember lists of neutral words over short intervals while simultaneously processing sentences describing dysfunctional trauma-related thoughts (relative to neutral control sentences). The task was designed to operationalise an everyday cognitive challenge for those with mental health problems such as PTSD; namely, the ability to carry out simple, routine tasks with emotionally benign material, while at the same time tackling emotional laden intrusive thoughts and feelings. eWMC performance, indexed as the ability to remember the word lists in the context of trauma sentences, relative to neutral sentences, was poorer overall in the PTSD group compared with controls, suggestive of a particular difficulty employing working memory in emotion-related contexts in those with a history of PTSD. The possible implications for developing affective working memory training as an adjunctive treatment for PTSD are explored.

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