Having an autobiographical memory requires the integration of several neural/behavioral systems, including visual imagery, auditory imagery, multi-modal spatial imagery, emotions, narrative reasoning, and executive search. When they work together, these systems produce an integrated, context-appropriate recollection that comes with a sense of reliving that is not overpowering. In posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a syndrome which affects approximately 8 percent of the adult population, this integration fails. Voluntary memories, especially of trauma, tend to be more fragmented. Involuntary memories are often troubling, coming with overpowering sensory imagery, emotions, and reliving. The proposed research is the first attempt to quantify the relative activity and interrelations of theoretically motivated systems when an autobiographical memory is retrieved by people with and without PTSD, thus offering the potential for a better understanding of both autobiographical memory and PTSD. We will ask a) Vietnam-era combat veterans, b) age-matched non-veterans, and c) undergraduates with and without PTSD symptoms to report on these systems while they are having an autobiographical memory. To understand the basic operations of autobiographical memory, comparisons will be for memories: from before and after the onset of PTSD, for traumatic vs. non-traumatic memories, for positive vs. negative memories, and for voluntary vs. involuntary memories. The analysis involves correlations done within individuals to test cognitive theories and between individuals to allow stable measures of cognitive style, mood, personality, and comorbid disorders. Our design allows the unusual step of integrating both types of analysis in the same data set. To try to understand changes in narrative reasoning, we will examine whether the traumatic event becomes central in people's life narrative and whether it affects their expectations of the life course in general. To try to understand the emotional system we will see whether reports of visceral emotional reactions are better predictors of other factors than are more cognitive reports of emotional intensity. ? ?

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
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Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
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Tuma, Farris K
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Duke University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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