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Randomized Controlled Trial
, 275, 261-268

A Pilot Randomized Trial of a Dual N-Back Emotional Working Memory Training Program for Veterans With Elevated PTSD Symptoms

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Randomized Controlled Trial

A Pilot Randomized Trial of a Dual N-Back Emotional Working Memory Training Program for Veterans With Elevated PTSD Symptoms

Sadie E Larsen et al. Psychiatry Res.

Abstract

Anxiety is characterized by excessive attention to threatening information, leading to impaired working memory (WM) performance and elevated anxious thoughts. Preliminary research indicates that individuals with PTSD show particular difficulty with WM in emotional contexts (Schweizer et al., 2011). Although several studies show that computerized training can improve WM capacity for anxious individuals (Owens et al., 2013; Schweizer et al., 2011; 2013), there has been very little research on WM training for PTSD or with Veterans (Saunders et al., 2015). In a pilot randomized trial, we assigned Veterans with elevated PTSD symptoms to an online emotional WM training, either adaptive (n-back; n = 11) or a less potent training (1-back; n = 10). Overall, both groups showed significant decreases in PTSD symptoms. The n-back group showed a trend of outperforming the 1-back group in improving reexperiencing symptoms (which are likely to be associated with impaired WM functioning). This population anecdotally found the intervention quite challenging, which may be why even the less potent 1-back was still helpful. These preliminary findings justify the effort for developing new WM-focused PTSD intervention for complex, vulnerable populations, particularly as online training can improve accessibility.

Keywords: PTSD; Trauma; Veterans; Working memory; n-back training.

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