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Journal of Traumatic Stress

Volume 8, Number 4 October 1995
Special Issue: Research on Traumatic Memory
Guest Co-Editor: Jessica Wolfe

Contents

Introduction to Special Issue on Traumatic Memory Research
Bonnie L. Green

Dissociation and the Fragmentary Nature of Traumatic Memories: Overview and Exploratory Study
Bessel A. van der Kolk and Rita Fisler

Functional Neuroanatomical Correlates of the Effects of Stress on Memory
J. Douglas Bremner, John H. Krystal, Steven M. Southwick, and Dennis S. Charney

Say It Once Again: Effects of Repeated Questions on Children's Event Recall
Robyn Fivush and April Schwarzmueller

Children's Long-Term Retention of Salient Personal Experiences
Peter A. Ornstein

Are Rape Memories Different? A Comparison of Rape, Other Unpleasant, and Pleasant Memories Among Employed Women
Shannon Trom, Mary P. Kloss, Aurelio Jose Figueredo and Melinda Tharan

Posttraumatic Stress Associated with Delayed Recall of Sexual Abuse: A General Population Study
Diana M. Elliot and John Briere

Recovered Memories of Abuse in Women with Documented Child Sexual Vicitimization Histories
Linda M. Williams

Change in Rape Narratives During Exposure Therapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Edna B. Foa, Chris Molnar and Laurie Cashman

Factors Influencing Recall of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Martha L. Rogers

Trauma, Traumatic Memory, and Research, Where Do We Go from Here?
Jessica Wolfe


Dissociation and the Fragmentary Nature of Traumatic Memories: Overview and Exploratory Study
Bessel A. van der Kolk and Rita Fisler

Since trauma arises from an inescapable stressful event that overwhelms people's coping mechanisms, it is uncertain to what degree the results of laboratory studies of ordinary events are relevant to the understanding of traumatic memories. This paper reviews the literature on differences between recollections of stressful and of traumatic events. It then reviews the evidence implicating dissociation as the central pathogenic mechanism that gives rise to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A systematic exploratory study of 46 subjects with PTSD indicated that traumatic memories were retrieved, at least initially, in the form of dissociated mental imprints of sensory and affective elements of the traumatic experience: as visual, olfactory, affective, auditory, and kinesthetic experiences. Over time, subjects reported the gradual emergence of a personal narrative that can be properly referred to as "explicit memory." The implications of these findings for understanding the nature of traumatic memories are discussed.
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Functional Neuroanatomical Correlates of the Effects of Stress on Memory
J. Douglas Bremner, John H. Krystal, Steven M. Southwick, and Dennis S. Charney

Recently there has been an increase in interest in the relationship between stress and memory. Brain regions which are involved in memory function also effect the stress response. Traumatic stress results in changes in these brain regions; alterations in these brain regions in turn may mediate symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Neural mechanisms which are relevant to the effects of stress on memory, such as fear conditioning, stress sensitization, and extinction, are reviewed in relation to their implications for PTSD. Special topics including neural mechanisms in dissociation, neurobiological approaches to the validity of childhood memories as they apply to controversies over the "False Memory Syndrome," and implications of the effects of stress on memory for psychotherapy, are also reviewed. The findings discussed in this paper are consistent with the formulation that stress-induced alterations in brain regions and systems involved in memory may underlie many of the symptoms of PTSD, as well as dissociative amnesia, seen in survivors of traumatic stress.
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Say It Once Again: Effects of Repeated Questions on Children's Event Recall
Robyn Fivush and April Schwarzmueller

In this paper, we review research examining the influences of repeated questioning on children's event recall. Issues addressed include how children's free recall changes across multiple recounts of the same event, whether responding to specific questions about an event affects subsequent responses to those same questions, and whether there are developmental differences in how children respond to repeated questioning. Both naturalistic studies of conversational remembering and more controlled studies using standardized interviews are discussed. Effects of repeated questioning both within and across interviews are assessed. In integrating the research findings, we present a developmental framework for understanding the effects of repeated questioning that relies on children's developing memory and narrative skills as well as their social understanding of the recall context.
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Children's Long-Term Retention of Salient Personal Experiences
Peter A. Ornstein

Research on young children's long-term retention is reviewed in this article. More specifically, the abilities of 3- to 7-year-olds to remember the details of two types of medical experiences--a routine physical examination and an invasive radiological procedure--are discussed in the context of a framework for considering the flow of information in the developing memory system. The framework emphasizes four general themes about memory performance and provides a vehicle for relating research on memory development to discussions of children's testimony and adults' abilities to remember early experiences.
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Are Rape Memories Different? A Comparison of Rape, Other Unpleasant, and Pleasant Memories Among Employed Women
Shannon Tromp, Mary P. Koss, Aurelio Jose Figueredo, and Melinda Tharan

The study examined empirically-measured memory characteristics, compared pleasant and unpleasant intense memories as well as rape and other unpleasant memories, and determined whether rape memories exhibited significantly more "flashbulb' characteristics. Data consisted of responses to a mailed survey of women employees of a medical center (N = 1,037) and a university (N = 2,142). Pleasant and unpleasant memories were differentiated by feelings, consequences, and level of unexpectedness. The most powerful discriminatory of rape from other unpleasant memories was the degree to which they were less clear and vivid, contained a less meaningful order, were less well-remembered, and were less thought and talked about. Few "flashbulb" characteristics discriminated among memory types. Implications for clinical work with rape survivors were discussed.
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Posttraumatic Stress Associated with Delayed Recall of Sexual Abuse: A General Population Study
Diana M. Elliott and John Briere

This study examined delayed recall of childhood sexual abuse in a stratified random sample of the general population (N = 505). Of participants who reported a history of sexual abuse, 42% described some period of time when they had less memory of the abuse than they did at the time of data collection. No demographic differences were found between subjects with continuous recall and those who reported delayed recall. However, delayed recall was associated with the use of threats at the time of the abuse. Subjects who had recently recalled aspects of their abuse reported particularly high levels of posttraumatic symptomatology and self difficulties (as measured by the IES, SCL, and TSI) at the time of data collection compared to other subjects.
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Recovered Memories of Abuse in Women with Documented Child Sexual Victimization Histories
Linda M. Williams

This study provides evidence that some adults who claim to have recovered memories of sexual abuse recall actual events that occurred in childhood. One hundred twenty-nine women with documented histories of sexual victimization in childhood were interviewed and asked about abuse history. Seventeen years following the initial report of the abuse, 80 of the women recalled the victimization. One in 10 women (16% of those who recalled the abuse) reported that at some time in the past they had forgotten about the abuse. Those with a prior period of forgetting--the women with "recovered memories"--were younger at the time of abuse and were less likely to have received support from their mothers than the women who reported that they had always remembered their victimization. The women who had recovered memories and those who had always remembered had the same number of discrepancies when their accounts of the abuse were compared to the reports from the early 1970's.
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Change in Rape Narratives During Exposure Therapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Edna B. Foa, Chris Molnar, and Laurie Cashman

This paper presents a coding system developed to explore changes in narratives of rape during therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) involving repeated reliving and recounting of the trauma. Relationships between narrative categories hypothesized to be affected by the treatment and treatment outcome were also examined. As hypothesized, narrative length increased from pre- to post-treatment, percentage of actions and dialogue decreased and percentage of thoughts and feelings increased, particularly thoughts reflecting attempts to organize the trauma memory. Also as expected, increase in organized thoughts was correlated negatively with depression. While indices of fragmentation did not significantly decrease during therapy, the hypothesized correlation between decrease in fragmentation and reduction in trauma-related symptoms was detected.
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Factors Influencing Recall of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Martha L. Rogers

Selective literatures providing perspective on recall of childhood sexual abuse memories are reviewed. These include known patterns of autobiographical memories in adulthood, metacognitive mechanisms, interpersonal influences, and automatic cognitive processing which can influence judgments and reports of memory recall in children and adults. Some factors in adult experience such as mood stated, presence of emotional disorders, past and current relationships, and participation in psychotherapy which can influence autobiographical memory and recall of childhood events are delineated. Available studies directly exploring recovered memories of childhood abuse are considered in light of these studies. Finally, some applications to clinical work and suggestions for future research are outlined.
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JTS Adds Pages,Cuts Publication Cycle Time

The ISTSS Scientific Publications Committee has taken steps to eliminate the lengthy publication time for manuscripts accepted for publication in the Journal of Traumatic Stress (JTS).
The problem developed following publication of the special issue on traumatic memory research in October 1995 and two special sections (on trauma and society, and on transportation disasters) in April and July of 1995.

In addition, there has been an impressive improvement in the quality of manuscript submissions in general. JTS' publication time was discussed at the ISTSS Board meeting in November, and the Board agreed that this situation needed to be remedied in order to maintain high quality submissions.

Based on this initiative, the Executive Committee authorized additional pages to be published in the 1996 volume (Volume 9) to "catch up." These additional pages will completely alleviate the manuscript backlog, so that articles now being submitted to JTS will not be affected by the delay. Total time from acceptance to publication will be back to the standard of 8-9 months, continuing the Society's obligation to Plenum Publishing to submit manuscripts at least five months ahead of the publication date.

In addition, steps are being taken so that we do not experience delays in the future:

  • The length of regular articles will be limited to 7,500 words, including references and tables (about 26 pages with generous margins and a 12-point font).
  • The suggested page count will be changed to a suggested word count to make lengths of submissions more comparable.
  • Brief reports will be limited to 2,500 words.
  • Commentaries will be limited to 1,000 words.

As previously reported, the rejection rate for JTS has continued to increase, and more brief reports are being published. These various changes ensure that JTS will stay on a reasonable publication schedule, and that the quality of manuscripts will continue to be high. These new guidelines will appear in the January 1996 issue. The Scientific Publications Committee is working with Plenum to ensure that the format for future issues will sufficiently meet the Society's space needs.
While limited space has been a problem in the past two years, ISTSS is fortunate to have this problem in a time of proliferation of professional journals, when many other publications are having difficulty filling their allotted space.
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