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PTSD And Memory

Information Handout

Alterations in the way the brain processes ‘normal’ vs. ‘traumatic’ material are thought to be responsible for the intrusive nature of memories in conditions such as PTSD. This information handout explains simply the changes in memory thought to occur in PTSD.



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PTSD And Memory is a simple one-page guide to brain regions implicated in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD has been associated with alteration in functioning of a number of brain regions including the amygdala, hippocampus, and pre-frontal cortex. The amygdala is a central part of our automatic threat-detection system and many studies have demonstrated amygdala hyperactivity in PTSD. The hippocampus is known to be essential for memory formation, but the hippocampal function is known to be impaired by extreme stress. Clients with PTSD find it extremely helpful to understand more about the function of these brain regions since it forms a key part of a rationale for memory processing therapy for PTSD.


This is a Psychology Tools information handout. Suggested uses include:

  • Client handout – use as a psychoeducation resource
  • Discussion point – use to provoke a discussion and explore client beliefs
  • Therapist learning tool – improve your familiarity with a psychological construct
  • Teaching resource – use as a learning tool during training


  • Brewin, C. R., Dalgleish, T., Joseph, S. (1996). A dual representation theory of posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychological Review, 103, 670-686.
  • Brewin, C. R., Gregory, J. D., Lipton, M., Burgess, N. (2010). Intrusive images in psychological disorders: Characteristics, neural mechanisms, and treatment. Psychological Review, 117(1), 210-232.