Temporal allocation of attention toward threat in individuals with posttraumatic stress symptoms

Nader Amir, Charles T. Taylor, Jessica A. Bomyea, Christal L. Badour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Research suggests that individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) selectively attend to threat-relevant information. However, little is known about how initial detection of threat influences the processing of subsequently encountered stimuli. To address this issue, we used a rapid serial visual presentation paradigm (RSVP; Raymond, J. E., Shapiro, K. L., & Arnell, K. M. (1992). Temporary suppression of visual processing in an RSVP task: An attentional blink? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 18, 849-860) to examine temporal allocation of attention to threat-related and neutral stimuli in individuals with PTSD symptoms (PTS), traumatized individuals without PTSD symptoms (TC), and non-anxious controls (NAC). Participants were asked to identify one or two targets in an RSVP stream. Typically processing of the first target decreases accuracy of identifying the second target as a function of the temporal lag between targets. Results revealed that the PTS group was significantly more accurate in detecting a neutral target when it was presented 300 or 500 ms after threat-related stimuli compared to when the target followed neutral stimuli. These results suggest that individuals with PTSD may process trauma-relevant information more rapidly and efficiently than benign information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1080-1085
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Betina Freese for her help in early conceptualization of this project. The preparation of this manuscript was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (R34 MH073004-01, R34 MH077129-01) awarded to the first author.


  • Attention bias
  • Information processing
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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