Impairment in active navigation from trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Abstract

The study investigated the impact of trauma exposure and of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on spatial processing and active navigation in a sample (n = 138) comprising civilians (n = 91), police officers (n = 22) and veterans (n = 27). Individuals with previous trauma exposure exhibited significantly poorer hippocampal-dependent (allocentric) navigation performance on active navigation in a virtual environment (the Alternative Route task) regardless of whether or not they had PTSD (scoring above 20 on the PTSD Diagnostic Scale). No effect of trauma exposure was found in static perspective taking (the Four Mountains task). Moreover, an associative information processing bias in those with PTSD interfered with ability to use hippocampal-dependent processing in active navigation. This study provides new evidence of impaired active navigation in individuals with trauma exposure and highlights the importance of considering the relationship between trauma and spatial processing in clinical and occupational settings.

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