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Effects of visuospatial tasks on desensitization to emotive memories

By D.J. Kavanagh, S. Freese, J. Andrade and J. May


Objectives: Vivid and intrusive memories of extreme trauma can disrupt a stepwise approach to\ud imaginal exposure. Concurrent tasks that load the visuo-spatial sketchpad (VSSP) of working memory\ud reduce memory vividness during imaginal exposure. Such tasks may help maintain a progressive\ud exposure protocol while minimizing distress during treatment. The current study tested whether relief\ud of distress from a competing VSSP load during emotive imagery is at the cost of impaired\ud desensitization.\ud \ud \ud Design: This study examined repeated exposure to emotive memories using 18 unselected\ud undergraduates, using a within-subjects design.\ud \ud \ud Method: Participants recalled three positive and three negative self-related memories, and rated the\ud vividness and emotiveness of the image. Participants then received all three conditions (Eye\ud Movements; Visual Noise; Control) in a counterbalanced order. One positive and one negative\ud recollection were used for each condition. They then rated the vividness of the image and their\ud emotional response before proceeding to the next trial. There were 8 trials for each image. At a noninterference\ud session one week later, participants recalled each image, rating its vividness and their\ud emotional response.\ud \ud \ud Results: Consistent with previous research, vividness and distress during imaging were lower during\ud eye movements than in exposure alone, with passive visual interference giving intermediate results.\ud A small reduction in emotional responses a week later was of similar size for the three conditions

Year: 2001
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