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Title: Why laterality matters in trauma : sinister aspects of memory and emotion
Author: Choudhary, Carolyn J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2683 9875
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis presents an eclectic mix of studies which consider laterality in the context of previous findings of increased prevalence of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in male combat veterans with non-consistent right hand preference. Two studies extend these findings not just to civilian populations and women, but to left handers and find that left, rather than mixed, handedness is associated with increased prevalence of PTSD in both general population and clinical samples, and to severity of symptoms in the former. To examine issues relevant to the fear response in healthy populations, a movie excerpt is shown to be theoretically likely to target the emotion of fear and to generate subjective and physiological (skin conductance) responses of fear. The film is used as a laboratory analogue of fear to examine possible differences in left and right handers in memory (for events of the film) and in an emotional Stroop paradigm known to produce a robust and large effect specifically in PTSD. According to predictions based on lateralisation of functions in the brain relevant to the fear response, left handers show a pattern of enhanced memory for visual items and poorer memory for verbal material compared to right handers. Immediately after viewing the film, left handers show an interference effect on the Stroop paradigm to general threat and film words and increased response latency compared to right handers, approaching performance of previously reported clinical samples with PTSD. A novel non-word Stroop task fails to show these effects, consistent both with accounts of interference as language processing effects and compromised verbal processing in PTSD. Unexpected inferior performance of females in memory for the film, contrary to previous literature, may also be amenable to explanations invoking compromised left hemisphere language functions in fear situations. In testing one theory of left handedness as due to increased levels of in utero testosterone, the 2D:4D (second to fourth digit ratio) provides mixed evidence in two samples. A possible association of more female-like digit ratios in males with PTSD is a tentative finding possibly relevant to sex differences in prevalence of PTSD. A critique of existing and inadequate theoretical accounts of handedness concludes the thesis and proposes a modification of the birth stress hypothesis to one specifically considering peri-natal trauma to account for the above findings. This hypothesis remains to be empirically tested.
Supervisor: O'Carroll, Ronan E. ; Wilson, J. T. Lindsay Sponsor: University of Stirling
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder ; PTSD ; Laterality ; Handedness ; left handedness ; memory ; emotion ; fear ; Stroop ; 2D:4D ; film ; testosterone ; Left- and right handedness ; Laterality ; Post-traumatic stress disorder