Attentional biases in post traumatic stress disorder and following acquired brain injury

English, Jennifer

Clinical psychology
July 2010

Thesis or dissertation

© 2010 Jennifer English. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Background: Attentional biases for trauma-relevant information are consideredto be a feature of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, there has beenno systematic review of the published literature into attentional biases across arange of experimental paradigms.Methods: A systematic search of four key databases identified 30 papers meetingthe inclusion criteria. Methodological quality of selected articles was assessedusing an adapted checklist. The tasks employed in the studies were assigned arating of either “yes”, “no”, or “mixed”, depending on the reported evidence fora specific attentional bias effect.Results: A specific attentional bias was found in only 19 of 37 tasks. Whenattentional biases were found they tended to occur at post-recognition stages ofprocessing and to be interference effects, rather than facilitative effects.Limitations: There were common weaknesses across studies, includingunrepresentative participant samples and inappropriate comparison stimuli andparticipant groups. Furthermore, it is difficult to identify the relative contributionof automatic and strategic processes in ranging cognitive paradigms.Conclusions: Attentional biases in PTSD are not reliably found in publishedresearch employing a range of experimental tasks. Future research needs to becarefully designed to clarify the existence and exact nature of attentional biasesin PTSD.Keywords: Attention bias, posttraumatic stress disorder, emotional Stroop, dotprobe,visual search, affective Stroop.

Postgraduate Medical Institute, The University of Hull
Derbyshire, Catherine
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