Relevance of Neuroendocrine Alterations in PTSD to Memory-Related Impairments of Trauma Survivors

  • Rachel Yehuda
  • Philip Harvey
  • Ronan E. O’Carroll
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA, volume 291)


It is now well established that memory consolidation in both animals and humans is influenced by stress-responsive neuromodulators. Recent theories have attempted to apply knowledge about the effect of these neuromodulators on memory, in order to explain the nature of memory-related impairments in trauma survivors with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, as will be described in this chapter, most existing theories have not incorporated recent information about biological aspects of PTSD in their formulations. Accordingly, current theories using only extant knowledge of the neurochemistry of stress have not been able to account for several important aspects of memory-related phenomenology in PTSD. For example, current theories do not explain the heterogeneity among trauma survivors in the prevalence of memory-related impairments, nor do they account for how different types of memory-related symptoms can occur over the course of an individual’s illness. A consideration of these questions requires knowledge of the biological events that occur at the time of the trauma and during the course of PTSD and an appreciation that these biological events represent an atypical, rather than a normal stress response. Furthermore, as most individuals do not develop long-term PTSD symptoms, current models of memory processing in PTSD must also account for the complex risk factors, other than similar exposures to traumatic events, that give rise to PTSD and PTSD-related memory impairments. This chapter will describe differences in the acute and chronic neurobiological response to trauma in individuals who develop PTSD versus those who do not, and will discuss the relevance of these findings to understanding the biological underpinnings of memory impairments in PTSD. Furthermore, a theoretical formulation of how to explore cognitive impairments in PTSD by considering possible risk factors for disturbed memory processing in response to trauma will be presented.


Cortisol Level Glucocorticoid Receptor Traumatic Event Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Biological Psychiatry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel Yehuda
    • 1
  • Philip Harvey
    • 2
  • Ronan E. O’Carroll
    • 3
  1. 1.Mount Sinai School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Bronx Veterans AffairsUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of StirlingUK

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