New Research From Clinical Psychological Science

Read about the latest research published in Clinical Psychological Science:

Is Trauma Memory Special? Trauma Narrative Fragmentation in PTSD: Effects of Treatment and Response

Michele Bedard-Gilligan, Lori A. Zoellner, and Norah C. Feeny

Some theories of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suggest that trauma memories are characterized by an incoherent and fragmented structure — something that is believed to play a role in the development, maintenance, and remission of PTSD symptoms. Despite this, few high-quality studies examining how memory fragmentation changes with treatment have been completed. Participants with chronic PTSD recounted the event associated with their PTSD diagnoses and a positive and negative memory before and after completing 10 weeks of prolonged exposure (PE) therapy or 10 weeks of treatment with sertraline (a selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitor). The researchers compared pre- and posttreatment changes in fragmentation between people receiving PE and sertraline and between those who did and did not respond to treatment, and found no consistent changes in fragmentation. These findings suggest that changes in memory fragmentation may not be as crucial to successful treatment as is currently believed.

The Positivity Offset Theory of Anhedonia in Schizophrenia

Gregory P. Strauss, Katherine H. Visser, Bern G. Lee, and James M. Gold

Some studies have suggested that people with schizophrenia are not anhedonic, but the authors challenge this view by applying the evaluative space model to the study of emotion in schizophrenia. They hypothesize that people with schizophrenia experience a reduction in positivity offset — the tendency to experience higher levels of positive emotions when negative emotional input is weak. Participants with schizophrenia, participants with schizoaffective disorder, and healthy controls completed an emotional-experience task in which they viewed positive, neutral, and unpleasant images and rated how positive, negative, and calm/excited each picture made them feel. The researchers found an imbalance in the ratio of positive and negative emotions at lower levels of affective input, and they found increased coactivation of positive and negative emotions that decreased the overall hedonic value of stimuli. These findings suggest that abnormalities in positivity offset may underlie abnormalities in emotional experiences of those with schizophrenia.

Stress Enhances the Memory-Degrading Effects of Eye Movements on Emotionally Neutral Memories

Marianne Littel, Malou Remijn, Angelica M. Tinga, Iris M. Engelhard, and Marcel A. van den Hout

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), in which people make lateral eye movements while recalling emotional memories, is a treatment technique used to reduce the vividness of emotional memories. Although EMDR has been shown to reduce the vividness of emotional memories, it has not been shown to influence the vividness of neutral memories. To examine why this might be, participants did or did not complete a stress-induction task before recalling neutral memories (control) or recalling neutral memories while making eye movements (recall + EM). The vividness of memories was found to decrease only for participants in the stress-induction condition who had high levels of performance anxiety, indicating that adding arousal to neutral memories can make them susceptible to degradation using EM procedures.

Understanding Interpersonal Dysfunction in Borderline Personality Disorder: A Naturalistic Dyadic Study Reveals Absence of Relationship-Protective Empathic Inaccuracy

Annemarie Miano, Isabel Dziobek, and Stefan Roepke

In relationships it is often — but not always — beneficial to accurately understand the thoughts and feelings of one’s romantic partner. When the relationship is threatened, it can be more beneficial to decrease empathic accuracy (EA) — a tactic known as motivated inaccuracy. The researchers examined whether a lack of motivated inaccuracy might account for relationship problems often experienced by those with borderline personality disorder (BPD) by measuring the empathic accuracy of relationship partners diagnosed with BPD while they engaged in neutral, relationship-threatening, and personally threatening conversations with their relationship partners. Compared with healthy control participants, women with BPD showed increased EA during relationship-threatening versus personally-threatening conversations.


There have been several studies and meta-analyses demonstrating robust clinical improvements of negative symptoms, including anhedonia, using rTMS, iTBS, and deep TMS. Such neuromodulation techniques show a lot of promise in treating schizophrenia symptoms (positive and negative). In Israel and Europe, deep TMS is officially approved by health authorities as a treatment for negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Please spread the word so that those treatments can go mainstream!!!

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