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The Facts About Prolonged Exposure Therapy for PTSD

This is a picture of a person holding their head in their hands.In a recent article in The New York Times Sunday Review, US Marine Corps Veteran David J. Morris chronicled his experience getting treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder at a Veterans Affairs hospital. In his essay, he detailed his adverse reactions to Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy, one of the only PTSD treatments to have wide-reaching empirical support.

In PE therapy, individuals are asked to approach — in both imaginary and real-life settings — situations, places, and people they have been avoiding. The repeated exposure to the perceived threat disconfirms individuals’ expectations of experiencing harm and over time leads to a reduction in their fear. The APS journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest last year provided a comprehensive report on PE and other evidence-based treatments.

In a brief online interview,…


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Perspective-Tracking Brain Response Could Help Identify Children with Autism

Using brain imaging to examine neural activity associated with our ability to distinguish the self from others may offer scientists a relatively accurate tool to identify children with autism spectrum disorder.

Although further research and evaluation will be needed before the imaging strategy can be used as a standard part of clinical assessment, preliminary findings published in Clinical Psychological Science indicate that it has diagnostic potential.

This is a photo of a girl looking in a mirror.“Our brains have a perspective-tracking response that monitors, for example, whether it’s your turn or my turn,” lead researcher Read Montague, professor at Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, said in a statement. “This response is removed from our emotional input, so it makes a great quantitative marker.” he said. “We can use it to measure differences between people with and without autism…


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How a Habit Becomes an Addiction

Editors_choiceResearch suggests that only 20–30% of drug users actually descend into addiction — defined as the persistent seeking and taking of drugs even in the face of dire personal consequences. Why are some people who use drugs able to do so without turning into addicts, while others continue to abuse, even when the repercussions range from jail time to serious health problems?

In a comprehensive review in the European Journal of Neuroscience, Barry Everitt outlines the neural correlates and learning-based processes associated with the transition from drug use, to abuse, to addiction.

Drug seeking begins as a goal-directed behavior, with an action (finding and taking drugs) leading to a particular outcome (the drug high). This type of associative learning is mediated by the dorsomedial region of the striatum, the area of the brain that is associated with reward processing, which…


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Processing Speed Helps Determine Whether We Choose Carrots Over Chocolates

PAFF_010514_CarrotsOrCake_newsfeatureAs we edge into 2015, many people will pledge to make healthier food choices a priority for the upcoming year—swapping out that slice of chocolate cake for a bag of carrot sticks. But, keeping that healthy eating resolution isn’t so easy when we’re actually faced with choosing between rich, delicious cake and crunchy carrots.

A new study from Caltech psychological scientists Nicolette Sullivan, Cendri Hutcherson, Alison Harris, and Antonio Rangel may help shed some light on exactly why that decision can be so hard.

The study, published in Psychological Science, shows that tiny differences in brain processing speed may account for big differences in our ability to stave off temptation and opt for the healthier snack.

When choosing between cake and carrots, our brains have to process the various aspects of the food: whether it’s going to taste good, how many…


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Inside the Psychologist’s Studio: Claude Steele

Past APS Board Member Claude Steele says his social psychology research — on topics ranging from self-image to alcohol’s effects on attention — reached a new level of quality once he learned to take the perspective of the actor, not the observer.

In a newly released “Inside the Psychologist’s Studio” interview, the acclaimed scientist says adopting the subjects’ viewpoint helped him design more effective experiments.

“When you take the perspective of somebody who’s actually in a psychological situation, like a student who’s intoxicated, everything is a lot clearer, and your intuition is better informed,” Steele said in the interview.

During his interview with APS Past President Elizabeth Phelps, Steele — now executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of California, Berkeley — talked extensively about his life and his research, which builds on his various theories of self-identity. These include:

-Stereotype threat — the state of…


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