Ashna Pandya, “The Relationship Between Attention Control and Hyperarousal Symptoms in PTSD”
Mentors: Han Joo Lee & Abel S. Mathew, Psychology
Research has shown deficits in working memory in association to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, few studies have evaluated this relationship in working memory affiliates, such as attention control (AC). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the relationship between various PTSD symptom clusters (e.g., re-experiencing, hyperarousal, avoidance, mood/cognition) and AC after controlling for other PTSD covariates, such as negative affect and emotional dysregulation. Thirty veterans were recruited from the Milwaukee VA as part of a larger study evaluating working memory training in individuals with PTSD. Participants completed the Attention Control Survey (ACS), Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (DASS-21) and an emotional dysregulation measure as assessed by heart rate variability (RMSSD). A two-step hierarchical regression was conducted with each of the PTSD symptom clusters as the dependent variable. Step 1 included DASS-21 and RMSSD. Step 2 of the regression included ACS. Of all the PCL-5 symptom clusters, only Cluster E, Hyperarousal was significantly predicted by AC after controlling for negative affect and emotional dysregulation, ∆R2 = 0.46, F(1,24) = 0.174, p < 0.01. This relationship was not found in other PTSD symptom clusters (p > 0.05). After controlling for emotional dysregulation and negative affect, AC was shown to significantly associate with PTSD hyperarousal symptoms. The results suggest that poorer attentional control may lead to greater hyperarousal symptoms in PTSD. Further research may consider targeted treatments to improve AC in individuals with PTSD.