Event Processing and Memory Deficits Associated with PTSD
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Description: This project contains materials from two papers that studied event processing in a group of people diagnosed with post posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and matched controls: Pitts, B. L., Eisenberg, M. L., Bailey, H. R., & Zacks, J. M. (2022). PTSD is associated with impaired event processing and memory for everyday events. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 7(1), 35. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41235-022-00386-6 Current theories of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) propose that memory abnormalities are central to the development and persistence of symptoms. While the most notable memory disturbances in PTSD involve memory for the trauma itself, individuals often have trouble remembering aspects of everyday life. Further, people with PTSD may have difficulty segmenting ongoing activity into discrete units, which is important for our perception and later memory of the activity. The current study investigated whether PTSD diagnosis and symptom severity predicted event segmentation and memory for everyday activities. To do so, 63 people with PTSD and 64 controls with a trauma history watched, segmented, and recalled videos of everyday activities. Viewers with higher PTSD symptom severity showed lower agreement on locations of event boundaries and recalled fewer fine-grained actions than did those with lower symptom severity. These results suggest that PTSD symptoms alter event segmentation, which may contribute to subsequent memory disturbances. Pitts, B. L., Eisenberg, M. L., Bailey, H. R., & Zacks, J. M. (2023). Cueing natural event boundaries improves memory in people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 8(1), 26. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41235-023-00478-x People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often report difficulty remembering information in their everyday lives. Recent findings suggest that such difficulties may be due to PTSD-related deficits in parsing ongoing activity into discrete events, a process called event segmentation. Here, we investigated the causal relationship between event segmentation and memory by cueing event boundaries and evaluating its effect on subsequent memory in people with PTSD. People with PTSD (n = 38) and trauma-matched controls (n = 36) watched and remembered videos of everyday activities that were either unedited, contained visual and auditory cues at event boundaries, or contained visual and auditory cues at event middles. PTSD symptom severity varied substantial within both the group with a PTSD diagnosis and the control group. Memory performance did not differ significantly between groups, but people with high symptoms of PTSD remembered fewer details from the videos than those with lower symptoms of PTSD. Both those with PTSD and controls remembered more information from the videos in the event boundary cue condition than the middle cue or unedited conditions. This finding has important implications for translational work focusing on addressing everyday memory complaints in people with PTSD.