Neural correlates of experimental trauma memory retrieval.
Experiments on content-dependent memory abnormalities in PTSD suggest several conclusions. First, PTSD patients exhibit enhanced recall of words related to trauma relative to trauma-exposed persons with the disorder. Recognition tests, however, appear insensitive to these effects. Second, PTSD patients do not exhibit implicit memory biases for trauma cues on implicit memory tasks that are strongly influenced by perceptual (e.g., orthographic) aspects of input. They may, however, exhibit enhanced implicit memory for trauma-related material on conceptually more complex tasks. Third, directed forgetting research suggests that adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse who have PTSD exhibit memory deficits only for neutral and positive material, not for material related to their abuse. Psychiatrically healthy survivors exhibit normal memory performance in this paradigm. Fourth, autobiographical memory research indicates that trauma survivors, especially those with PTSD, are characterized by difficulties retrieving specific memories from their past in response to cue words. These findings are especially dramatic in Vietnam combat veterans whose self-presentational style suggests a fixation to the war and a failure of their autobiography to unfold.