Intrusive memories and modality-specific mental imagery in posttraumatic stress disorder

Lena Jelinek*, Sarah Randjbar, Michael Kellner, Angnes Untiedt, Jana Volkert, Christoph Muhtz, Steffen Moritz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by vivid intrusive memories of the trauma. Among these, visual sensations of the trauma are most commonly reported. However, intrusions may involve other senses as well (e.g., acoustic, olfactory, or bodily sensations). It has been proposed that enhanced mental imagery may predispose individuals with traumatic experiences to intrusions and ultimately to PTSD. A total of 58 victims of interpersonal violence with current (n = 20), past (n = 19), and no lifetime PTSD (n = 19) as well as non-traumatized controls (n = 23) were assessed with the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ) and a modality-specific imagery questionnaire. Moreover, the sensory quality of the traumatic intrusions was assessed in traumatized participants. Participants with recovered PTSD displayed less overall mental imagery than the other three groups who were indistinguishable. No relation was found between the modality-specific mental imagery and the sensory quality of the intrusions. The impact of mental imagery on intrusive memories in PTSD is complex. Less mental imagery appears beneficial in the recovery process, but does not prevent the development of intrusive symptoms in the first place. Further investigation of perceptual and memory vividness as well imagery control (i.e., to sustain, modify, or terminate an image) also including trauma-related material may be important for trauma-specific interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-70
Number of pages7
JournalZeitschrift für Psychologie = Journal of Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Imagery
  • Intrusions
  • Memory
  • PTSD


Dive into the research topics of 'Intrusive memories and modality-specific mental imagery in posttraumatic stress disorder'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this