Post-traumatic stress Disorder (PTSD) is a chronic and debilitating disorder that affects millions of people each year (Kessler et al., 2005). Although effective psychosocial and pharmacological treatments exist for this disorder, as many as 50 percent of individuals still experience symptoms after treatment (Schottenbaeur et al., 2008). Empirical literature suggests that cognitive deficits may play a role in maintaining symptoms in individuals with PTSD through a variety of mechanisms, including decreased cognitive control over intrusive thoughts (Verwoerd et al., in press) and dysregulation in neural circuitry linking prefrontal cognitive control functions and amygdala activity (McNally, 2007). The goals of the proposed research are to improve the candidate's understanding of cognitive mechanisms of PTSD symptoms while building skills in conducting treatment research. The application aims to test a novel methodology for approaching PTSD treatment based on modification of underlying cognitive mechanisms of the disorder. To this end, 50 participants with PTSD will be randomly assigned to an 8-session executive control training condition designed to improve working memory functioning or a control condition.
The aims of this study are 1) To test the effect of a working memory training program on working memory performance and 2) To examine the effects of this program on PTSD symptoms. The research plan is complemented by a set of training goals for the candidate to achieve over the proposed award period. These include 1) training in the use of fMRI and neuropsychological assessment 2) additional coursework and seminars in cognitive science and biostatistics for use in future work, 3) experience with teaching in the undergraduate and graduate setting and presenting original work for publication in preparation for a career in academic research. Taken together, the research and training components of this grant application will facilitate the candidate's long-term goal of conducting treatment outcome and basic mechanism research in PTSD. Moreover, as per the strategic plan outlined by NIMH, this application is designed develop an innovative intervention based on prior clinical research and knowledge of cognitive and neurobiological features of the disorder, and will advance knowledge of mechanisms of fear learning. It is designed to target core cognitive features of the disorder in an effort to reduce symptoms.

Public Health Relevance

Post-traumatic stress disorder impacts millions of Americans, and is associated with significant personal distress as well as societal cost. The current application is designed to examine the effect of a novel working memory training program on PTSD symptoms. This approach is promising in that it may be a cost- effective and accessible method for decreasing symptoms associate with this disorder.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-RPHB-K (29))
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Rubio, Mercedes
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San Diego State University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
San Diego
United States
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Ramsawh, Holly J; Bomyea, Jessica; Stein, Murray B et al. (2016) Sleep Quality Improvement During Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety Disorders. Behav Sleep Med 14:267-78
Bomyea, Jessica; Lang, Ariel J (2016) Accounting for intrusive thoughts in PTSD: Contributions of cognitive control and deliberate regulation strategies. J Affect Disord 192:184-90
Bomyea, J; Ramsawh, H; Ball, T M et al. (2015) Intolerance of uncertainty as a mediator of reductions in worry in a cognitive behavioral treatment program for generalized anxiety disorder. J Anxiety Disord 33:90-4
Bomyea, Jessica; Lang, Ariel; Craske, Michelle G et al. (2015) Course of symptom change during anxiety treatment: Reductions in anxiety and depression in patients completing the Coordinated Anxiety Learning and Management program. Psychiatry Res 229:133-42
Bomyea, Jessica; Stein, Murray B; Lang, Ariel J (2015) Interference control training for PTSD: A randomized controlled trial of a novel computer-based intervention. J Anxiety Disord 34:33-42
Bomyea, J; Lang, A J; Golinelli, D et al. (2013) Trauma Exposure in Anxious Primary Care Patients. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 35:254-263
Bomyea, Jessica; Lang, Ariel J; Craske, Michelle G et al. (2013) Suicidal ideation and risk factors in primary care patients with anxiety disorders. Psychiatry Res 209:60-5
Bomyea, Jessica; Lang, Ariel J (2012) Emerging interventions for PTSD: future directions for clinical care and research. Neuropharmacology 62:607-16
Lang, Ariel J; Strauss, Jennifer L; Bomyea, Jessica et al. (2012) The theoretical and empirical basis for meditation as an intervention for PTSD. Behav Modif 36:759-86
Bomyea, Jessica; Amir, Nader; Lang, Ariel J (2012) The relationship between cognitive control and posttraumatic stress symptoms. J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry 43:844-8

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