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Research proposal HD43000

Research proposal HD43000 - Spilkowitz 1 Stephan Spilkowitz...

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Spilkowitz 1 Stephan Spilkowitz 27 April 2010 Professor Wang HD 4310 Research Proposal: Second Draft An Investigation of the Impact of Exposure Therapy on Over-General Memory In Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Introduction Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a pervasive anxiety disorder which often results in severe impairment of emotional, cognitive, and social functioning. Unlike other psychological disorders such a Schizophrenia, for which people possess genetic vulnerabilities, the onset of PTSD can be sudden and indiscriminate; following exposure to or involvement in a traumatic experience. The DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for PTSD requires that a person experience, witness, or be confronted with an event involving actual or threatened death to one’s self or others; thus evoking emotions of intense fear, horror, or helplessness. The trauma typically results in victims subsequently experiencing intrusive and recurring memories of the event, nightmares, flashbacks, intense psychological distress regarding stimuli related to the event, and persistent avoidance of event-related stimuli, among other criteria. Although much is known about the psychological and physiological effects of PTSD, a clear-cut understanding of the hormonal imbalances and the neuroanatomical regions associated with PTSD has not yet been achieved. PTSD studies in both humans and animals have shown that traumatic experiences can affect the functioning of a wide array of physiological systems. This suggests that PTSD dysfunction is not rooted in any one anatomical region, and that it is
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Spilkowitz 2 instead the result of “altered ‘brain-body interactions’ that have their origin in the functional disturbances of the [Central Nervous System];” disturbances which are perpetuated by unusually high levels of stress hormones (Sharpe & Carson, 2001, as cited in Stam, 2007). Despite the wide array of cognitive, emotional, and physiological symptoms associated with PTSD, by far the most pervasive symptom is the root of the disorder itself—the persistent and unintentional recall of the emotionally salient trauma memory. It is for this reason that research regarding the dysfunction of memory in PTSD patients has been so central to the study of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It has been firmly established through empirical studies as well as self-report measures that these trauma memories are over-active, invasive, and emotionally draining (Halligan & Michael, 2003). However the neuroanatomical, cognitive, and behavioral underpinnings of this memory dysfunction are still the subject of much inquiry. It is further debated whether victims of PTSD suffer solely from dysfunction in emotional (traumatic) memory, or whether they suffer from dysfunction with non-emotional autobiographical, semantic, and procedural memory as the result of deregulation in the prefrontal cortex coupled with hormonal imbalances (Vasterling, 2002). Empirical research geared towards elucidating the
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