PerspectiveNeuroscience

Resilience to trauma: Just a matter of control?

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Science  14 Feb 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6479, pp. 734-735
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz9451

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Summary

On 13 November 2015, a group of Islamic jihadists launched a series of coordinated terror attacks across the city of Paris, France. Witness statements and police reports were almost unbearable to hear, but for people directly affected by the attacks, their traumatic experiences are unforgettable. How do people cope with the memories of such terrible experiences when reminders of the event are omnipresent? Selectively blocking memories of the event is a common coping strategy, but is it a good one? Clinicians would probably be skeptical about recommending this strategy because it is counterproductive for many patients who have experienced a traumatic event. On page 756 of this issue, Mary et al. (1) report the neural differences that control the retrieval of traumatic memories in 102 individuals who were affected by the Paris terror attacks but who dealt with these memories in different ways: 55 developed posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and 47 did not.

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