Attentional processes in posttraumatic stress disorder and the associated changes in neural functioning

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Abstract

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is associated with alterations in attention at the behavioral and neural levels. However, there are conflicting findings regarding the specific type of attention impairments present in PTSD, as the commonly used tests of attention do not isolate the mechanisms behind attention abnormalities, and the constructs measured do not map onto the neurocircuits governing attention. Here, we review the literature on attention processing in PTSD and offer directions for future research to clarify these unanswered questions. First, using instruments that allow assessment of behavioral and neurophysiological attention components will be necessary to understand attention deficits in PTSD. Second, focus on intra-individual variability in addition to assessment of central tendency may help clarify some of the mixed findings. Third, longitudinal studies on attentional processes are warranted to determine how attention contributes to the development and maintenance of PTSD. Integration of behavioral and neural measures of attention will be useful in understanding the pathophysiology of PTSD.

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