Oh the lemons in life: Individual differences in emotion processing predict post-trauma depression.

Tabitha Nicole Alverio, Sara M Levens


The effect that trauma has on a person is variable—some individuals may develop depression, stress, or post-traumatic stress disorder, while others will cope more adaptively. A plethora of research has examined the negative effect of trauma on behavior and cognition. Yet less research has been conducted to elucidate what cognitive processes may underlie whether a person develops depression or is resilient after a stressful event. The goal of the present study is to investigate whether individual differences in emotion-processing in working memory may underlie the development of depression and stress (or not) in response to experiencing a recent trauma. Participants completed two experimental sessions. In the first session participants completed an emotion n-back task followed by questionnaires assessing depression, stress, and trauma history. In the second session 1 to 4 months later, participants again completed depression, stress, and trauma history questionnaires. Participants were grouped based on whether they had experienced a recent trauma (Trauma group) or had not experienced a trauma (No-trauma group) in the last 6 months. Emotion n-back task performance was compared between the Trauma and No-trauma group. In addition correlation analyses were conducted to determine whether engaging and disengaging from emotional content in the emotion n-back task predicted later levels of depression and stress in the trauma group. Results reveal that of the individuals who experienced a trauma, disengaging from positive content faster predicted higher levels of post trauma depression symptoms. These findings suggest that individuals who have trouble keeping positive information active develop higher levels of depression than individuals who easily maintain positive content. Furthermore these findings suggest that assessments of individual differences in emotion processing may be predictive of post trauma experiences, thoughts, and behavior.


trauma; working memory: emotion processing

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ISSN: 2325-0917