Reducing intrusive memories after trauma via a brief cognitive task intervention in the hospital emergency department: an exploratory pilot randomised controlled trial.
Kanstrup M., Singh L., Göransson KE., Widoff J., Taylor RS., Gamble B., Iyadurai L., Moulds ML., Holmes EA.
Intrusive memories are common after trauma, and can cause significant distress. Interventions to prevent/reduce the occurrence of this core clinical feature of posttraumatic stress disorder are needed; they should be easy to deliver, readily disseminated and scalable. A novel one-session intervention by Iyadurai et al. 2018, Molecular Psychiatry, resulted in intrusion reduction over the subsequent week. Its feasibility in a different setting and longer-term effects (>1 month) need investigation. We conducted an exploratory open-label pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT) to investigate the feasibility and effects of a brief behavioural intervention to reduce intrusive memories in trauma-exposed patients in a Swedish hospital emergency department (ED). Participants (final N = 41) were randomly allocated to either intervention (including memory reminder cue then visuospatial cognitive task "Tetris" with mental rotation instructions) or active control (podcast) condition within 72 h of presenting to the ED (both conditions using their smartphone). Findings were examined descriptively. We estimated between-group effect sizes for the number of intrusive memories post-intervention at week 1 (primary outcome) and week 5 (secondary outcome). Compared to the control condition, participants in the intervention condition reported fewer intrusive memories of trauma, both at week 1 and week 5. Findings extend the previous evaluation in the UK. The intervention was readily implemented in a different international context, with a mixed trauma sample, with treatment gains maintained at 1 month and associated with some functional improvements. Findings inform future trials to evaluate the capacity of the cognitive task intervention to reduce the occurrence of intrusive memories after traumatic events.