Attentional bias in post-traumatic stress disorder diminishes after symptom amelioration


Avoidance and hypervigilance to reminders of a traumatic event are among the main characteristics of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Attentional bias toward aversive cues in PTSD has been hypothesized as being part of the dysfunction causing etiology and maintenance of PTSD. The aim of the present study was to investigate the cognitive strategy underlying attentional bias in PTSD and whether normal cognitive processing is restored after a treatment suppressing core PTSD symptoms.

Nineteen healthy controls were matched for age, sex and education to 19 PTSD patients. We used the emotional stroop and detection of target tasks, before and after an average of 4.1 sessions of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

We found that on both tasks, patients were slower than controls in responding in the presence of emotionally negative words compared to neutral ones. After symptoms removal, patients no longer had attentional bias, and responded similarly to controls.

These results support the existence of an attentional bias in PTSD patients due to a disengagement difficulty. There was also preliminary evidence that the disengagement was linked to PTSD symptomatology. It should be further explored whether attentional bias and PTSD involve common brain mechanisms.






Myriam El Khoury-Malhame
Laura Lanteaume
Eva M. Beetz
Jacques Roques
Emmanuelle Reynaud
Jean-Claude Samuelian
Olivier Blin
Rene Garcia
Stephanie Khalfa

Original Work Citation

El Khoury-Malhame, M., Lanteaume, L., Beetz, E. M., Roques, J., Reynaud, E., Samuelian, J.-C., Blin, O., Garcia, R., & Khalfa, S. (2011, September). Attentional bias in post-traumatic stress disorder diminishes after symptom amelioration. Behavior Research and Therapy, 49(11), 796-801. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2011.08.006



“Attentional bias in post-traumatic stress disorder diminishes after symptom amelioration,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed December 3, 2021,

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