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Eye-tracking exploration of inhibitory control in post-traumatic stress disorder: an emotional antisaccade paradigm

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journal contribution
posted on 26.04.2021, 13:20 authored by Wivine Blekic, Erika Wauthia, Monika Kornacka, Kendra Kandana Arachchige, Laurent Lefebvre, Mandy Rossignol

Background: Cognitive–behavioural studies among individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have highlighted attentional biases towards threats as a key factor in the maintenance of the disorder. Anxiety-related studies have hypothesized that attentional biases were due to attentional control difficulties in inhibition and flexibility of threatening information.

Objective: Because it remains unclear how this theory could be applied to PTSD, this study aims to evaluate the inhibitory control and flexibility abilities of negative and threatening information in this population, using eye-tracking technology.

Method: Fifteen adults with a history of physical assault and a current diagnosis of PTSD, and 15 healthy control participants, completed an original mixed antisaccade task.

Results: We found enhanced overt attentional allocation towards every item of emotional information among PTSD participants, such as indexed by the latencies of the first saccade in prosaccade trials, followed by disengagement difficulties, such as indexed by increased reaction time to identify the target.

Conclusion: Our results could represent empirical evidence of the general enhancement of attentional vigilance in people with PTSD in comparison with healthy controls, as well as specific inhibitory deficits. The results are interpreted through a fear-generalization hypothesis.

The ability to detect a relevant information in our environment and disengage from it is an important process in our daily life.

PTSD patients presented a general hyper vigilant behavior followed by disengagement difficulties.

We did not highlight impairments in flexibility among PTSD participants.

The ability to detect a relevant information in our environment and disengage from it is an important process in our daily life.

PTSD patients presented a general hyper vigilant behavior followed by disengagement difficulties.

We did not highlight impairments in flexibility among PTSD participants.

Funding

Wivine Blekic (FRESH Grant Holder) is funded by the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S.-FNRS, Brussels, Belgium) [grant number F6/40/5]. This funding source did not exert any influence or censorship on the present work.

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