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01-04-2011 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2011 Open Access

Cognitive Therapy and Research 2/2011

Pre-Stressor Interference Control and Intrusive Memories

Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 2/2011
Johan Verwoerd, Ineke Wessel, Peter J. de Jong, Maurice M. W. Nieuwenhuis, Rafaele J. C. Huntjens


Although intrusive imagery is a common response in the aftermath of a stressful or traumatic event, only a minority of trauma victims show persistent re-experiencing and related psychopathology. Individual differences in pre-trauma executive control possibly play a critical role. Therefore, this study investigated whether a relatively poor pre-stressor ability to resist proactive interference in working memory might increase risk for experiencing undesirable intrusive memories after being exposed to a stressful event. Non-clinical participants (N = 85) completed a modified version of a widely used test of interference control in working memory (CVLT; Kramer and Delis 1991) and subsequently watched an emotional film fragment. Following presentation of the fragment, intrusive memories were recorded in a 1-week diary and at a follow up session 7 days later. A relatively poor ability to resist proactive interference was related to a relatively high frequency of film-related intrusive memories. This relationship was independent of neuroticism and gender. These findings are consistent with the idea that a pre-morbid deficit in the ability to resist proactive interference reflects a vulnerability factor for experiencing intrusive memories after trauma exposure.

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