Targeting the reconsolidation of traumatic memories with a brief 2-session imaginal exposure intervention in post-traumatic stress disorder

Joana Singer Vermes, Ricardo Ayres, Adara Saito Goés, Natalia Del Real, Álvaro Cabral Araújo, Daniela Schiller, Francisco Lotufo Neto, Felipe Corchs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-494
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume276
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Extinction
  • Imaginal exposure
  • Memory
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Reconsolidation
  • Retrieval

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