False Remembering in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder - Developing an Innovative Program of Research; The Monash-Warwick Trauma Memory and Law Research Program

Up to 70% of the adult population in both the UK and Australia have experienced trauma at some point in their lives. A significant proportion of this group develop a disabling psychological condition known as Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Characterised by hyperarousal, persistent re-living of trauma events, avoidance of trauma-related stimuli, and negative alterations in cognitions and mood, PTSD now affects up to 10% of the UK and Australian population and is considered a common mental health disorder.

Central to PTSD and its treatment outcomes is the notion that PTSD sufferers may experience memory disruptions relating directly to the trauma event, and the general remembering of personal life experiences (Jobson et al., 2014). With trauma survivors often being required to provide evidence in legal investigations, and memory featuring prominently as evidence, debate amongst professionals continues as to whether those with PTSD provide accurate memories. With many unanswered questions relating to the cognitive mechanisms underpinning memory distortions in PTSD, and the extent to which those with PTSD can determine the (un)reliability of their memories there is need for a novel and valid methodology to better understand the development and phenomenology of false memories in PTSD sufferers.

With critical input from a team of experts, Dr Laura Jobson from the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience at Monash University, and Dr Kimberley Wade from the Psychology Department at the University of Warwick will lead a new research initiative that will substantially advance the understanding of trauma, PTSD and false memory. The exciting collaboration positions the two universities in an exclusive position to be a world-first research program investigating false memory in PTSD. Importantly the work will have clear translation into legal policy and practise, as well as include an educational component and strategic plans to engage government and third sector organisations. In the longer term, Dr Jobson and Dr Wade hope to see an improved understanding of false memory in PTSD, a greater understanding of how facts, ideas and suggestions may modify memory in those with PTSD, guidelines to improve questioning and use of evidence of those with PTSD, a firm platform to attract external funding and longer term educational pathways.

Principle applicants

Laura Jobson

Dr Laura Jobson

Senior Lecturer, Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience, Monash University

Kimberley Wade

Dr Kimberley Wade

Department of Psychology, University of Warwick

Co-applicants

Professor Sean Drummond, Professor of Clinical Neuroscience, Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience, Monash University

Professor Jacqueline Hodgon, Academic Director for Research and Impact and Social Sciences, Faculty of Law, University of Warwick

Professor Martin Conway, Department of Psychology, City University London

Professor Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor of Social Ecology and Professor of Law and Cognitive Science, Department of Psychological Science, University of California