Psychological Medicine

Original Article

An experimental investigation of hypervigilance for threat in children and adolescents with post-traumatic stress disorder

T.  DALGLEISH  a1 c1, A. R.  MORADI  a1, M. R.  TAGHAVI  a1, H. T.  NESHAT-DOOST  a1 and W.  YULE  a1
a1 Medical Research Council, Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge and Institute of Psychiatry, London; and Teacher-Training University, Tehran, Shiraz University, Shiraz and Esfahan University, Esfahan, Iran


Background. The present study examined biases in visual attention for emotional material in children and adolescents with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and healthy controls.

Methods. The participants carried out an attentional deployment task in which probe detection latency data were used to determine the distribution of visual attention for threat-related and depression-related material.

Results. The results showed that children and adolescents with PTSD, relative to controls, selectively allocated processing resources towards socially threatening stimuli and away from depression-related stimuli. This attentional avoidance of depression-related information in the PTSD participants declined with age.

Conclusions. The results of the study are interpreted as a consolidation and extension of previous research on attentional bias and emotional disorder in younger participants.

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Tim Dalgleish, Cognition and Emotion Research Group, MRC CBU, 15 Chaucer Road, Cambridge CB2 2EF.