Associative memory impairment in acute stress disorder: Characteristics and time course

Jonathan Guez*, Jonathan Cohen, Moshe Naveh-Benjamin, Asher Shiber, Yan Yankovsky, Rotem Saar, Hadar Shalev

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Stress and episodic memory impairment have previously been associated. Acute stress disorder (ASD) is a maladaptive stress response, which develops in some individuals following traumatic life events. Recently, the authors demonstrated a specific deficit in associative memory for emotionally neutral stimuli in ASD and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study further tested the relationship between this memory impairment and the course of ASD. We assessed new learning and memory for item and associative information in patients diagnosed with ASD (n=14) and matched trauma naïve controls (n=14). Memory performance and posttraumatic symptoms were examined for approximately 1 and 10 week periods following the traumatic experience. In the two experiments, participants studied a list of stimuli pairs (verbal or visual) and were then tested for their memory of the items (item recognition test), or for the association between items in each pair (associative recognition test). In both experiments, ASD patients showed a marked associative memory deficit compared to the control group. After 10 weeks, ASD symptoms were resolved in most patients. Interestingly, their performance on associative recognition for verbal stimuli improved, while the associative deficit for visual stimuli remained unchanged. Potential mechanisms underlying such an associative memory deficit in post-trauma patients are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-484
Number of pages6
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 30 Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
Achva Academic College


    • Acute stress disorder
    • Associative deficit
    • Associative recognition
    • Episodic memory
    • Item recognition
    • Post-trauma


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