Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Valentiner, David P.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is best conceptualized as a failure of the stress response to naturally resolve following trauma exposure (e.g., Orcutt, Bonanno, Hannan, & Miron, 2014). Current treatments are effective for some, but not all who suffer from PTSD (e.g., Bradley, Greene, Russ, Dutra, & Westen, 2005; Lee et al., 2016), and relapse is common (Ursano et al., 2004; Davidson et al., 2001). Considering that PTSD is a memory-based disorder, a treatment that could augment trauma memories has the potential to address the limitations of current interventions. Research on memory suggests that, if a memory is retrieved under the right conditions, it may become temporarily labile and susceptible to interference before it is stored back into long-term memory (LTM) through a process called reconsolidation (e.g., Nader et al., 2000). The reconsolidation literature has led to successful augmentation and erasure of memory using pharmacological intervention in animals and humans (Brunet et al., 2008; Dębiec & LeDoux, 2004), however results are inconsistent (Muravieva & Albirini, 2010; Wood et al., 2015). A behavioral reconsolidation intervention may provide a more flexible approach to memory augmentation. This study attempted to design and validate such an intervention. Participants (n = 40) were assigned to either the experimental (reconsolidation interference) or the control (traditional exposure) conditions. Psychophysiological arousal, as well as change in overall symptoms, intrusion symptoms specifically, posttraumatic cognitions, and subjective distress, were assessed one week later. Results demonstrated that the intervention paradigm successfully activated participants’ trauma memories, but that it may have failed to initiate reconsolidation processes. No significant differences were found between the experimental and control conditions on any outcome measure. Limitations of this study, future directions, and implications for the behavioral reconsolidation interference paradigm are discussed.


102 pages




Northern Illinois University

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