International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies


Selected articles from the January 1996 issue

Recovered Memory Questions Continue: An Update

By Laura Brown, Ph.D.
Three years into the highly public controversy over delayed recall of childhood sexual abuse, questions not only remain, but continue to grow over the mechanism of memory for traumatic events. This note contains updates on some issues in the recovered memory debate.
The American Psychological Association's Working Group on Recovered Memories of Childhood Abuse finished its deliberations in December, 1994. However, a final report has been delayed while differences between the memory researchers and trauma specialists on the group continue to be worked on.

Currently, a complete and final version of the group's report is due to be presented to the APA Board of Directors in early February, 1996. The report in its current form contains two reviews of literature, one each on memory and trauma, followed by responses to each review by the other group, and rebuttals to the responses. A joint concluding section will finish the report. 

The process of the group highlighted the differences in epistemologies and knowledge bases between some memory researchers and professionals working in the field of trauma, with important differences in opinion about the effects of trauma on memory, the traumatic nature of childhood sexual abuse, and the likelihood that pseudomemories of childhood abuse could be easily created by therapist suggestions. The report is currently due to be published as a book by APA in late 1996.

The question of a scientific basis for delayed recall of trauma also continues to be addressed in the courts. While many courts in many states and Canada have allowed testimony on the topic of "repressed memory," in a recent case in the state of New Hampshire, a trial judge ruled that there was no scientific basis for the concept of repressed memory and refused to allow testimony on this topic.This finding, which is contradicted by a large body of data, much of it created by members of this Society, is currently being appealed. 

ISTSS is considering writing and submitting an amicus curiae brief outlining the Society's understanding of the strong scientific basis for the concept of delayed recall of trauma.
Finally, a number of excellent reviews of the literature on the topic of trauma and memory have been published in response to this controversy, including most recently the exciting special issue of the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

Presentations at the Society's annual meeting in Boston also highlighted some of the newest and most provocative research on the neurobiology of trauma, underscoring the contention that the final chapter has not yet been written on the topic of delayed recall.

Journal of Traumatic Stress Seeks Nominations for Editor

The ISTSS Scientific Publications Committee is seeking nominations for the position of edior of the Journal of Traumatic Stress (JTS). JTS, the primary scientific publication of ISTSS, has grown to become a significant resource to those involved in studying and treating people exposed to traumatic events. JTS is an interdisciplinary forum for peer-reviewed original papers in biopsychosocial aspects of trauma. 

The person selected as editor will assume responsibilities as editor-elect on January 1, 1997. The term of office will be five years, preceded by one year as editor-elect. Successful candidates will have experience and expertise in traumatic stress research, theoretical conceptualizations of the field and treatment outcome. They will possess a reputation for scholarship and be sensititve and open to activity in the field broadly defined. Prior experience as an editor/reviewer for journals and funding agencies is essential. Academic and administrative sckills, along with interpersonal and communications skills, are vital to the successful management of the JTS . Institutional support from a candidate's emplouer is very important. 

The editor works closely with the board of directors and staff of ISTSS and with the staff of Plenum Publishing Corp. The editor is an ex-officio member of the board of directors of ISTSS. The editor also works closely with the Scientific Publications Committee of ISTSS.

Applications must be members in good standing of ISTSS. Members are encouraged to nominate qualified candidates, as well as self-nominate. Nominations from minority candidates are particularly welcome. Interested individuals should forward a curriculum vitae and a letter detailing qualifications to Terence M. Keane, PhD, Chair, Scientific Publications Committee, ISTSS, 60 Revere Drive, Suite 500, Northbrook, IL 60062 U.S.A. Deadline for nominations is March 1, 1996.