Trauma Impacts

Previous work has shown that healthy individuals can actively suppress emotional memories through recruitment of the lateral prefrontal cortex. By contrast, individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently experience unwanted memories of their traumatic experiences, even when making explicit efforts to avoid them. However, little is known regarding the behavioral and neural effects of memory suppression among individuals with PTSD.
The researchers examined memory suppression associated with PTSD using the Think-No-Think paradigm in an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study. They studied three groups: PTSD (n = 16), trauma exposure without PTSD (n = 19); and controls (i.e., no trauma exposure or PTSD; n = 13). There was a main effect of memory suppression such that participants remembered fewer face-picture pairs; during the suppress condition than the remember condition.

Neuroimaging data

However, trauma-exposed participants (regardless of PTSD status) were less likely to successfully; suppress memory than non-trauma-exposed controls. Neuroimaging data revealed that trauma-exposed individuals showed reduced activation; in the right middle frontal gyrus during memory suppression. These results suggest that trauma exposure is associated with neural; and behavioral disruptions in memory suppression and point to the possibility that difficulty; in active suppression of memories may be just one of several likely factors contributing to the development of PTSD.

People exposed to trauma are less able to suppress unwanted emotional memories; due to neural and behavioral disruptions in their brain that may contribute to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is characterizing by intense reliving of the trauma that is repetitive; intrusive and incapacitating. The intrusive nature of these hallmark symptoms suggests; that the inability to suppress unwanted memories may be a strong contributor to the behavioral manifestation of PTSD.

The behavioral and neural effects

Previous work has shown that healthy individuals can actively suppress emotional memories while individuals with PTSD frequently experience unwanted memories of their traumatic experiences, even when making explicit efforts to avoid them. However, little is known regarding the behavioral; and neural effects of memory suppressing among individuals with PTSD.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the researchers examined memory suppression in three groups: those with PTSD; those who experienced trauma without PTSD and controls with no trauma exposure or PTSD. They found trauma-exposed participants (regardless of PTSD status) were less likely to successfully suppress memory than non-trauma-exposed controls.

Disruptions in memory suppression

“Neuroimaging data revealed that trauma-exposed individuals showed reducing activation in the right middle frontal gyrus; a critical region for memory suppression, during a memory suppression task and were less likely to successfully suppress memory comparing to non-trauma exposed individuals. These results suggesting that trauma exposure is associating with neural and behavioral disruptions in memory suppression; and point to the possibility that difficulty in active suppression of memories; may be just one of several likely factors contributing to the development of PTSD,” explained lead author Danielle R. Sullivan, Ph.D., affiliated with Boston University School of Medicine and the National Center for PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare System.