Altered memory functioning is one of the key features of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Besides the intrusive re-experiencing of the trauma (e.g., intrusions of memories of a car accident or a violent attack), many clinical descriptions and theoretical models emphasize the fragmented and disorganized recollection of the trauma. Beyond that, neuropsychological studies have found evidence for general impairments of mnemonic functions in patients with PTSD. Our research group carried out several empirical studies in which we not only replicated findings of memory impairment in PTSD (trauma-specific and general) but also extended these findings in relation to several important aspects that have not previously been examined, such as the stimulus specificity of deficits (visual vs. verbal material) and the recall of sequences (sequence memory) (e.g., Behrendt & Moritz, 2005; Jelinek, Hottenrott, Randjbar, Peters, & Moritz., 2009; Jelinek et al., 2006; Jelinek et al., 2008). Other research projects focused on visual false memories (Hauschildt, Peters, Jelinek, & Moritz, 2011; Jelinek, Hottenrott, Randjbar, Peters, & Moritz, 2009), memories of the worst moment of the traumatic event (Jelinek, Stockbauer, et al., 2010), attentional biases for trauma-relevant stimuli (e.g., Hauschildt, Wittekind, Randjbar, Moritz, & Jelinek, 2013; Wittekind, Jelinek, Kellner, Moritz, & Muhtz, 2010; Wittekind, Muhtz, Jelinek, & Moritz, 2015), tendencies toward automatic avoidance of trauma-relevant stimuli (Wittekind et al., 2015), as well as neuropsychological (Jelinek, Wittekind, Kellner, Moritz, & Muhtz, 2013b), metacognitive (Jelinek, Wittekind, Kellner, Moritz, & Muhtz, 2013a), and psychophysiological abnormalities (Hauschildt, Peters, Moritz, & Jelinek, 2011). In addition to paradigms that we have developed (including an assessment of visual and scenic false memories), our studies have used modified forms of classical paradigms (e.g., the emotional Stroop paradigm, the spatial cueing task, and the approach-avoidance task).

Other studies have investigated cognitive processing during the trauma (Jelinek et al., 2007), the risk estimation of hazardous situations (Volkert, Randjbar, Moritz, & Jelinek, 2013), and the importance of imagery vividness for the development of intrusions (Jelinek, Randjbar, et al., 2010). Furthermore, we have examined the long-term consequences of traumatic experiences during forced displacement of adults at the end of World War II for those directly affected and for their offspring (Jelinek, Wittekind, Kellner, Moritz, & Muhtz, 2013a, 2013b; Muhtz et al., 2011; Wittekind, 2014; Wittekind, Jelinek, Kellner, Moritz, & Muhtz, 2010).

Research Team

  • Dr. Marit Hauschildt
  • PD Dr. Lena Jelinek
  • Prof. Dr. Steffen Moritz
  • Dr. Charlotte Wittekind

Cooperating Partners

  • Dipl.-Psych. Alice Behrendt (Plan International, Plan West Africa Region)
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Ehring (University of Münster, Germany)
  • Prof. Dr. Michael Kellner (Medical Park Clinic Chiemseeblick, Bernau-Felden, Germany)
  • Prof. Dr. Nexhmedin Morina (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)
  • PD Dr. Christoph Muhtz (Department for Psychosomatic Medicine Eilbek, Hamburg, Germany)
  • PD Dr. Dragana Seifert (Forensic Medicine Institute, Hamburg, Germany)

References

Behrendt, A. (2005). Traumatische Lebenserfahrung oder wichtiges Ritual? Die psychischen Folgen weiblicher Genitalverstümmelung [Traumatic life experience or significant ritual? The psychological consequences of female genital mutilation.] Menschenrechte für die Frau, 1, 16-17.

Behrendt, A., & Moritz, S. (2005). Posttraumatic stress disorder and memory problems following female genital mutilation. American Journal of Psychiatry, 261, 1000-1002.

Hauschildt, M., Peters, M., Jelinek, L., & Moritz, S. (2011). Veridical and false memory for scenic material in posttraumatic stress disorder. Consciousness and Cognition, 21, 80-89.

Hauschildt, M., Peters, M. J. V., Moritz, S., & Jelinek. L. (2011). Heart rate variability in response to affective scenes in posttraumatic stress disorder. Biological Psychology, 88, 215– 222.

Hauschildt, M., Wittekind, C. E., Randjbar, S., Moritz, S., & Jelinek, L. (2013). Delayed attention allocation to trauma-related stimuli in posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychiatry Research, 207, 73–79.

Jelinek, L., Hottenrott, B., Randjbar, S., Peters, M., & Moritz, S. (2009). Visual false memories in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 40, 374-283.

Jelinek, L., Jacobsen, D., Kellner, M., Larbig, F., Biesold, K.-H., Barre, K., & Moritz, S. (2006). Verbal and nonverbal memory functioning in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 28, 940-948.

Jelinek, L., Moritz, S., Randjbar, S., Sommerfeldt, D., Püschel, K., & Seifert, D. (2008). Does the evocation of traumatic memories confound subsequent working memory performance in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Depression and Anxiety, 25, 175-179.

Jelinek, L., Randjbar, S., Kellner, M., Untiedt, A., Volkert, J., Muhtz, C., & Moritz, S. (2010). Intrusive memories and modality-specific mental imagery in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Journal of Psychology, 218, 64–70.

Jelinek, L., Randjbar, S., Moritz, S., Heinemann, A., Püschel, K., & Seifert, D. (2007). Posttraumatische Belastungsstörung bei Opfern von Gewalttaten. Rechtsmedizin, 17, 301-305.

Jelinek, L., Randjbar, S., Seifert, D., Kellner, M., & Moritz, S. (2009). The organisation of autobiographical and non-autobiographical memory in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 18, 288-298.

Jelinek, L., Stockbauer, C., Randjbar, S., Kellner, M., Ehring, T., & Moritz, S. (2010). Characteristics and organization of the worst moment of trauma memories in posttraumatic stress disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48, 680-685.

Jelinek, L., Wittekind, C. E., Kellner, M., Moritz, S., & Muhtz, C. (2013a). (Meta-)cognitive beliefs in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following forced displacement after World War II in older adults and their offspring. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 18, 452-462.

Jelinek, L., Wittekind, C. E., Kellner, M., Moritz, S., & Muhtz, C. (2013b). Neuropsychological functioning in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following forced displacement after World War II in older adults and their offspring. Psychiatry Research, 210, 584–589.

Larbig, F., Jelinek, L., Kellner, M., Biesold, K.-H., Barre, K., & Moritz, S. (2008). Subjective premorbid memory in posttraumatic stress disorders. German Journal of Psychiatry, 11, 149-152.

Muhtz, C., von Alm, C., Godemann, K., Wittekind, C., Jelinek, L., Yassouridis, A., & Kellner, M. (2011). Langzeitfolgen von in der Kindheit am Ende des II. Weltkrieges erlebter Flucht und Vertreibung. [Long-term consequences of flight and expulsion in former refugee children.] Psychotherapie - Psychosomatik - Medizinische Psychologie, 61, 233-238.

Volkert, J., Randjbar, S., Moritz, S., & Jelinek, L. (2013). Risk recognition and sensation seeking in revictimization and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Behavior Modification, 37, 39-61.

Wittekind, C. E. (2014). Informationsverarbeitung Trauma-relevanter Reize bei Posttraumatischer Belastungsstörung (PTBS): Eine experimentelle Studie mit im Zweiten Weltkrieg vertriebenen Personen und ihren Angehörigen. [Information processing of trauma-related stimuli in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): An experimental study with Second World War refugees and their relatives.] Lengerich, Germany: Pabst Science Publisher.

Wittekind, C. E., Behmer, F., Muhtz, C., Fritzsche, A., Jelinek, L., & Moritz, S. (2015). Investigation of Automatic Avoidance in Displaced Individuals With Chronic Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Psychiatry Res, 228 (3), 887-893.

Wittekind, C. E., Jelinek, L., Kellner, M., Moritz, S., & Muhtz, C. (2010). Intergenerational transmission of biased information processing in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following displacement after World War II. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 24, 953-957.

Wittekind, C.E., Muhtz, C., Jelinek, L., & Moritz, S. (2015). Depression, not PTSD, is associated with attentional biases for emotional visual cues in early traumatized individuals with PTSD. Front Psychol, 5, 1474.