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The effect of attachment security priming and oxytocin on physiological responses to trauma films and subsequent intrusions

The effect of attachment security priming and oxytocin on physiological responses to trauma films and subsequent intrusions
The effect of attachment security priming and oxytocin on physiological responses to trauma films and subsequent intrusions
To further understand protective mechanisms to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder or assist recovery from psychological trauma, this study investigated whether pharmacological and psychological activation of a secure attachment representation elicits higher felt-security and a related response pattern of reduced physiological arousal and increased parasympathetic activation; and whether it protects individuals from developing intrusions and experiencing distress in the week following exposure to a trauma film. Using a double-blind, experimental mixed factorial design, 101 volunteers received either oxytocin or placebo and either secure attachment or neutral priming before watching a trauma film. We measured felt security as an indicator of the strength of activation of a secure attachment representation, skin conductance and heart rate as indicators of physiological arousal, and high frequency heart rate variability as an indicator of parasympathetic activation during the priming and the film. Participants then completed a seven-day intrusion diary. Secure attachment priming, but not oxytocin administration or the combination of both, was associated with reduced physiological arousal and increased parasympathetic activity during priming. Although secure attachment priming was not related to the absolute number of intrusions or to less perceived distress or physiological arousal during the trauma film, it was associated with lower intrusion-related distress in the 7-days post-testing. Our findings extend previous research that suggests the importance of interventions that address intrusion-related distress for recovery from trauma, and suggest a promising role for secure attachment priming in trauma-focused psychological therapies. We contribute to the growing literature that finds that higher subjective distress during a trauma is associated with higher intrusion-related distress. We discuss theoretical implications and possible mechanisms through which secure attachment priming may exert potential beneficial effects.
Psychophysiology, attachment priming, intrusions, oxytocin, trauma film paradigm
0005-7967
Karl, Anke
70069103-e283-47e5-b415-fb8e29943005
Carnelley, Katherine
02a55020-a0bc-480e-a0ff-c8fe56ee9c36
Arikan, Gizem
514acf15-2f76-44f3-a88a-b1ec6dbc752e
Baldwin, David
1beaa192-0ef1-4914-897a-3a49fc2ed15e
Heinrichs, Markus
4a2cac27-6546-4a4e-b029-447015648c13
Stopa, Lusia
b52f29fc-d1c2-450d-b321-68f95fa22c40
Karl, Anke
70069103-e283-47e5-b415-fb8e29943005
Carnelley, Katherine
02a55020-a0bc-480e-a0ff-c8fe56ee9c36
Arikan, Gizem
514acf15-2f76-44f3-a88a-b1ec6dbc752e
Baldwin, David
1beaa192-0ef1-4914-897a-3a49fc2ed15e
Heinrichs, Markus
4a2cac27-6546-4a4e-b029-447015648c13
Stopa, Lusia
b52f29fc-d1c2-450d-b321-68f95fa22c40

Karl, Anke, Carnelley, Katherine, Arikan, Gizem, Baldwin, David, Heinrichs, Markus and Stopa, Lusia (2021) The effect of attachment security priming and oxytocin on physiological responses to trauma films and subsequent intrusions. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 141, [103845]. (doi:10.1016/j.brat.2021.103845).

Record type: Article

Abstract

To further understand protective mechanisms to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder or assist recovery from psychological trauma, this study investigated whether pharmacological and psychological activation of a secure attachment representation elicits higher felt-security and a related response pattern of reduced physiological arousal and increased parasympathetic activation; and whether it protects individuals from developing intrusions and experiencing distress in the week following exposure to a trauma film. Using a double-blind, experimental mixed factorial design, 101 volunteers received either oxytocin or placebo and either secure attachment or neutral priming before watching a trauma film. We measured felt security as an indicator of the strength of activation of a secure attachment representation, skin conductance and heart rate as indicators of physiological arousal, and high frequency heart rate variability as an indicator of parasympathetic activation during the priming and the film. Participants then completed a seven-day intrusion diary. Secure attachment priming, but not oxytocin administration or the combination of both, was associated with reduced physiological arousal and increased parasympathetic activity during priming. Although secure attachment priming was not related to the absolute number of intrusions or to less perceived distress or physiological arousal during the trauma film, it was associated with lower intrusion-related distress in the 7-days post-testing. Our findings extend previous research that suggests the importance of interventions that address intrusion-related distress for recovery from trauma, and suggest a promising role for secure attachment priming in trauma-focused psychological therapies. We contribute to the growing literature that finds that higher subjective distress during a trauma is associated with higher intrusion-related distress. We discuss theoretical implications and possible mechanisms through which secure attachment priming may exert potential beneficial effects.

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Submitted date: 8 March 2021
Accepted/In Press date: 8 March 2021
e-pub ahead of print date: 13 March 2021
Keywords: Psychophysiology, attachment priming, intrusions, oxytocin, trauma film paradigm

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 448343
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/448343
ISSN: 0005-7967
PURE UUID: be5e0d40-196e-47d9-b562-c85a5dd92e9e
ORCID for David Baldwin: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-3343-0907

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 20 Apr 2021 16:34
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 02:37

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Contributors

Author: Anke Karl
Author: Gizem Arikan
Author: David Baldwin ORCID iD
Author: Markus Heinrichs
Author: Lusia Stopa

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