Information Processing Bias in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Darren L Weber*
Dynamic Neuroimaging Laboratory The University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

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©. Darren L. Weber; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Dynamic Neuroimaging Laboratory, University of California, San Francisco, 185 Berry Street, Suite 350, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA. Tel: +1 415 353-9444; Fax: +1 415 353-9421; E-mail:


This review considers theory and evidence for abnormal information processing in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cognitive studies have indicated sensitivity in PTSD for traumatic information, more so than general emotional information. These findings were supported by neuroimaging studies that identify increased brain activity during traumatic cognition, especially in affective networks (including the amygdala, orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortex). In theory, it is proposed that traumatic cognition may interfere with neutral cognition and there is evidence of abnormal neutral stimulus processing in PTSD. Firstly, PTSD patients perform poorly on a variety of neuropsychology tasks that involve attention and memory for neutral information. The evidence from event-related potentials and functional neuroimaging also indicates abnormal results in PTSD during neutral stimulus processing. The research evidence generally provides support for theories of trauma sensitivity and abnormal neutral stimulus processing in PTSD. However, there is only tentative evidence that trauma cognition concurrently interferes with neutral cognition. There is even some evidence that traumatic or novelty arousal processes can increase the capacity for attentive processing, thereby enhancing cognition for neutral stimulus information. Research on this topic has not yet fully explored the mechanisms of interaction between traumatic and neutral content in the cognitive dynamics of PTSD.