We formulate and test a theory of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) based only on mechanisms that have solid support in scientific studies of cognition, personality, and emotion. The theory combines findings from experimental and individual differences research to make predictions that often contradict existing theories of PTSD, but that agree with the existing data. It is the first theory to combine measures of the severity of traumatic events, personality, and memory processes. Moreover, it predicts quantitatively clinical outcomes by assigning numerical weights to the various measures. Two main studies are proposed, which use structural equation models. In the first, 200 adults will be tested, who vary in symptom severity. Of these, at least 50 will meet standard clinical diagnostic inclusion criteria for current PTSD and 50 will meet standard exclusion criteria for lifetime PTSD so that, in addition to the correlational analyses, direct comparisons can be made between the prototypical groups used in the PTSD literature. To provide predictor variables, the participants will complete standardized tests of mood and personality. They will recall and record a narrative version of their most traumatic or stressful events, which will be scored for coherence and event severity. They will also recall their three most positive and three most important events and imagine that three traumatic scenarios occur to them in the future. The imagined future events will probe how the participants view and react to traumatic events in general. For each of their memories and the imagined events, participants will provide measures of emotional intensity and valence, vividness of sensory information, narrative coherence, and degree of reliving of the event. They will also provide ratings of involuntary, often intrusive, memories made as they come to mind for two weeks, recording their responses on personal data assistants. This online technique was developed by our group and its use is still unique to it in PTSD populations. It provides the most accurate measure of intrusive memories, a key symptom of PTSD. The rich data set obtained allows us to disentangle competing existing hypotheses and better understand the mechanisms that lead to and maintain PTSD. The second study uses the same theory and quantitative techniques, but takes advantage of an ongoing longitudinal study in its 20th year. It includes fewer, but similar, tests to the first study and a sample of several thousand adults approximately 60 years old. It includes tests of current PTSD symptom severity, mood and personality tests, as well as health data, to do a truly prospective study of current PTSD symptoms as predicted by measures obtained longitudinally. Additional tests and experiments will be conducted to test specific supporting hypotheses. In particular, we will examine the coherence of narrative of memories of traumatic, very positive, and important events in participants who have or do not have a clinical diagnosis of PTSD.

Public Health Relevance

Based on measures of the severity of a traumatic event, the personality of the person experiencing the event, and the properties of the memories that the person has of the event and of other non-traumatic events, we attempt to predict which people will develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how severe their symptoms will be. We do this by trying to understand autobiographical memory for emotional, stressful events. Our quantitative theory, if successful, would help identify risk factors for PTSD and should suggest which properties of traumatic memories therapy should attempt to change.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
5R01MH066079-09
Application #
8427367
Study Section
Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
Program Officer
Tuma, Farris K
Project Start
2002-09-01
Project End
2015-02-28
Budget Start
2013-03-01
Budget End
2014-02-28
Support Year
9
Fiscal Year
2013
Total Cost
$636,073
Indirect Cost
$228,334
Name
Duke University
Department
Psychology
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
044387793
City
Durham
State
NC
Country
United States
Zip Code
27705
Ogle, Christin M; Rubin, David C; Siegler, Ilene C (2016) Accounting for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptom Severity With Pre- and Posttrauma Measures: A Longitudinal Study of Older Adults. Clin Psychol Sci 4:272-286
Koppel, Jonathan; Rubin, David C (2016) Recent Advances in Understanding the Reminiscence Bump: The Importance of Cues in Guiding Recall from Autobiographical Memory. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 25:135-149
Rubin, David C; Berntsen, Dorthe; Ogle, Christin M et al. (2016) Scientific evidence versus outdated beliefs: A response to Brewin (2016). J Abnorm Psychol 125:1018-1021
Butler, Andrew C; Rice, Heather J; Wooldridge, Cynthia L et al. (2016) Visual imagery in autobiographical memory: The role of repeated retrieval in shifting perspective. Conscious Cogn 42:237-53
Ogle, Christin M; Rubin, David C; Siegler, Ilene C (2016) Maladaptive trauma appraisals mediate the relation between attachment anxiety and PTSD symptom severity. Psychol Trauma 8:301-9
Rubin, David C; Deffler, Samantha A; Ogle, Christin M et al. (2016) Participant, rater, and computer measures of coherence in posttraumatic stress disorder. J Abnorm Psychol 125:11-25
Berntsen, Dorthe; Rubin, David C; Salgado, Sinue (2015) The frequency of involuntary autobiographical memories and future thoughts in relation to daydreaming, emotional distress, and age. Conscious Cogn 36:352-72
Ogle, Christin M; Rubin, David C; Siegler, Ilene C (2015) The relation between insecure attachment and posttraumatic stress: Early life versus adulthood traumas. Psychol Trauma 7:324-32
Rubin, David C; Umanath, Sharda (2015) Event memory: A theory of memory for laboratory, autobiographical, and fictional events. Psychol Rev 122:1-23
Berntsen, Dorthe; Rubin, David C (2015) Pretraumatic Stress Reactions in Soldiers Deployed to Afghanistan. Clin Psychol Sci 3:663-674

Showing the most recent 10 out of 48 publications