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Rattel, Julina A.; Miedl, Stephan F.; Franke, Laila K.; Ehring, Thomas and Wilhelm, Frank H. (2021): Lifetime adversity interacts with peritraumatic data-driven processing to predict intrusive memories. In: Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Vol. 74, 101688

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Abstract

Background and objectives: Although most trauma survivors experience some intrusive recollections of the traumatic event, only few subsequently develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A well-established proximal risk-factor predictive of post-trauma psychopathology is peritraumatic cognitive processing. Another, more distal risk-factor is pre-trauma lifetime adversity. The present experimental analogue study tested the hypothesis that pre-trauma lifetime adversity interacts with peritraumatic perceptual (i.e., data-driven) processing to predict intrusive memory development. Methods: Fifty-three young adult women (non-clinical sample) indicated how much data-driven and conceptual processing they had engaged in while watching aversive film-clips (i.e., analogue trauma). On the subsequent three days, they reported intrusions of those clips. Moderation analyses tested for an interaction effect between lifetime adversity and data-driven processing in predicting intrusion load (number of intrusions weighted for their overall distress). Results: Increased data-driven processing predicted intrusion load primarily in individuals reporting more than three lifetime adversities, explaining 55% of variance. No such relationship was found for conceptual processing. Limitations: Present analogue findings have yet to be replicated in a clinical population. Moreover, the conceptual processing scale was restricted by low internal consistency. Conclusion: Present findings support the idea that intrusions are the result of poorly elaborated and primarily perceptually-formed memory traces;however, this was primarily the case in vulnerable individuals reporting several lifetime adversities. Results replicate the importance of peritraumatic processing in intrusion development but additionally point to a moderating effect of lifetime adversity.

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