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Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2015 May;131(5):342-9. doi: 10.1111/acps.12364. Epub 2014 Nov 17.

Comprehension of affective prosody in women with post-traumatic stress disorder related to childhood abuse.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada; Mood Disorders Program, St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, Hamilton, ON, Canada.



Although deficits in memory and cognitive processing are evident in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), difficulties with social cognition and the impact of such difficulties on interpersonal functioning are poorly understood. Here, we examined the ability of women diagnosed with PTSD related to childhood abuse to discriminate affective prosody, a central component of social cognition.


Women with PTSD and healthy controls (HCs) completed two computer-based tasks assessing affective prosody: (i) recognition (categorizing foreign-language excerpts as angry, fearful, sad, or happy) and (ii) discrimination (identifying whether two excerpts played consecutively had the 'same' or 'different' emotion). The association of performance with symptom presentation, trauma history, and interpersonal functioning was also explored.


Women with PTSD were slower than HCs at identifying happiness, sadness, and fear, but not anger in the speech excerpts. The presence of dissociative symptoms was related to reduced accuracy on the discrimination task. An increased severity of childhood trauma was associated with reduced accuracy on the discrimination task and with slower identification of emotional prosody.


Exposure to childhood trauma is associated with long-term, atypical development in the interpretation of prosodic cues in speech. The findings have implications for the intergenerational transmission of trauma.


adult survivors of child abuse; dissociation; post-traumatic; social perception; speech; stress disorders

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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