Studying individual differences and emotion regulation effects on PTSD-like responding and recovery: A psychophysiological VR-trauma paradigm
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Embargo placed for 18 months
Reason for embargo
I intend to publish 4 research papers.
Despite a high proportion of the population experiencing traumatic events within their lifetime, the number of individuals who go on to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is comparatively small; herein highlighting the importance of individual differences in imparting risk and resilience towards the development and maintenance of PTSD. Existing literature illustrates that biological and ecological factors are important in predicting PTSD development, with pathological vulnerabilities excepting their effects at pre- peri- and post trauma stages. Whilst cognitive and emotion based models of PTSD account for the role of a minority of known pre-trauma risk factors, individual differences in peri- and post trauma processes are held as critical to the development of PTSD. The broad range of risk factors implicated in the empirical literature, and necessity of traumatic exposure to PTSD, implicates the utility of a diathesis-stress conceptualisation of PTSD development. The current thesis employed an analogue VR-trauma paradigm to investigate the respective importance of vulnerability factors at each stage, in the prediction of analogue PTSD symptoms (memory problems, startle responses, re-exposure fear habituation), whilst measuring affective and electrophysiological concomitance. Findings supported the importance of peri-traumatic responses in the prediction of PTSD, where present, showing increased predictive capacities over pre- and post-trauma factors. Biological and ecological factors also illustrated important predictive associations, with genetic SNPs implicated in reflex startle and cardiac responses towards intrusive memories. Moreover, peri-traumatic HR decelerations and accelerations mediated the association between pre-trauma factors and cued recall inaccuracy and intrusion severity respectively. Results support existing cognitive and emotional models in their emphasis on peri-traumatic processes but suggest the added utility of a diathesis stress conceptualisation of the development of PTSD, in highlighting the importance of pre-trauma biological and ecological risk and resilience factors.
Gerald Kerkutt Trust
Exeter Graduate Fellowship from University of Exeter
Appendix 1: Rumball, F., & Karl, A. (2011). Virtual reality as a beneficial tool for experimental research into PTSD. Traumatic Stress Points, September, 25, 5.
PhD in Psychology