Background: Evidence suggests that extinction during memory reconsolidation diminishes the return of defensive responses. In order to translate these effects to the clinical setting, we tested whether retrieving a traumatic memory and delivering a brief two-sessions imaginal exposure intervention during its reconsolidation would produce stronger decreases in reactivity to these memories than standard imaginal exposure method. Methods: Participants with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) had either their traumatic (n = 21) or a neutral (nn = 21) memory retrieved 1 h before an imaginal exposure session for two consecutive days. One day before and one day after, participants were exposed to script-driven imagery of their traumatic event, during which skin conductance responses were measured and, immediately after, subjective responses were assessed by means of Visual Analogue Scales. Results: Traumatic retrieval improved the physiological, but not the subjective effects of imaginal exposure intervention on over-reactivity to traumatic memories. Conclusions: Our results suggest that delivering extinction-based treatments over the reconsolidation of traumatic memories may enhance its effects. These results suggest that this is a promising path toward the development of new therapeutic techniques.
- Imaginal exposure
- Post-traumatic stress disorder