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Author: Thomas Elbert (208)


Feb
2018

The Good: when you fight to counter threat, your aggression is a reactive defense, and often morally justifiable. The Bad: when you loot and rob, hurt and kill, to obtain social status or material goods, that is an extrinsic reward. This is instrumental aggression.

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Dec
1969

Background: A substantial number of refugees present with mental disorders. This appears particularly acute in the currently increasing refugee populations in Europe. Although EU guidelines demand the identification and support of vulnerable individuals such as survivors of trauma, no adequately validated and comprehensive mental health screening instruments for refugees residing in Europe currently exist.

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Dec
1969

Background: In violent communities, social rejection as a person with victim-offender attributes is associated with more intense symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a higher propensity towards violence, i.e. appetitive aggression.

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Oct
2017

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been linked to deviations in lateralized frontal functional oscillatory activity. This is possibly because left and right DLPFC have differential roles in regulating both memory and stress response, which are both dysfunctional in PTSD. However, previous results are heterogeneous, and could be attributable to individual symptom clusters, traumatic or aggressive life events, early life stress, or the interaction of these factors.

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Dec
1969

Background: The likelihood of developing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) depends on the interaction of individual risk factors and cumulative traumatic experiences. Hence, the identification of individual susceptibility factors warrants precise quantification of trauma exposure. Previous research indicated that some traumatic events may have more severe influences on mental health than others; thus, the assessment of traumatic load may be improved by weighting event list items rather than calculating the simple sum score.

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Dec
1969

Appetitive aggression is the attraction to violent behavior, which can peak in the experience of a combat high. In various war and conflict scenarios, members of armed groups have reported developing a desire to hunt and even kill humans. More recently, we reported that the phenomenon has also been observed in female ex-combatants with varying participation in warfare.

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Dec
1969

Exposure to traumatic stressors and subsequent trauma-related mental changes may alter a person's risk-taking behavior. It is unclear whether this relationship depends on the specific types of traumatic experiences. Moreover, the association has never been tested in displaced individuals with substantial levels of traumatic experiences.

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Dec
1969

Cognitive and physical activities can benefit cognition. However, knowledge about the neurobiological mechanisms underlying these activity-induced cognitive benefits is still limited, especially with regard to the role of white matter integrity (WMI), which is affected in cognitive aging and Alzheimer's disease. To address this knowledge gap, we investigated the immediate and long-term effects of cognitive or physical training on WMI, as well as the association between cognitive and physical lifestyles and changes in WMI over a 6-month period.

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Dec
1969

Background: In the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), civilians have been heavily exposed to traumatic stressors. Traumatizing experiences cumulatively heighten the risk for trauma-related disorders, and with it affect cognitive and psycho-social functioning. Objectives: We aimed at investigating the association between trauma-related disorders and cognitive and psycho-social functioning and hypothesized that PTSD symptom severity would negatively correlate with executive functioning, working memory and psycho-social functioning in everyday life.

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Nov
2017

Past research revealed war trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms as potential predictors for domestic and community violence in crisis regions and among soldiers in different armed conflicts. The impact of family violence and other adversities experienced in childhood as well as of a combat-enhanced appeal for aggressive behavior (appetitive aggression) remains to be specified.
In the present study, the authors separately predicted violence against children, intimate partner violence and community violence in 381 Burundian soldiers returning from foreign deployment and living in a post- conflict region.

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Aug
2017

Traumatic stressors and other forms of adversities, especially when experienced during childhood, shape aggressive behavior. Effects of differential dimensions of impulsivity on the relationship between psychological trauma, reactive aggression (defensive survival response to threat), and appetitive aggression (the pleasure of attacking and fighting) have not yet been assessed.
Using structural equation modeling, we sought to uncover precursors of reactive and appetitive aggression investigating a sample of 94 adult individuals with refugee status.

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Dec
1969

In an observer-blinded intervention trial, we tested the reduction of posttraumatic stress symptoms, aggressive attitude, and behavior in young males living in a context of ongoing community and gang violence by means of (a) forensic offender rehabilitation narrative exposure therapy (FORNET), and (b) the cognitive-behavioral intervention "Thinking for a Change" (TFAC). A waiting list served as the control condition.
A total of 39 young men were included in the data analysis: 15 completed FORNET, 11 underwent cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and 13 were on a waiting list for later treatment.

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Nov
2016

Child abuse is associated with a number of emotional and behavioral problems. Nevertheless, it has been argued that these adverse consequences may not hold for societies in which many of the specific acts of abuse are culturally normed. Epigenetic modifications in the genes of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis may provide a potential mechanism translating abuse into altered gene expression, which subsequently results in behavioral changes.

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May
2017

It has been postulated that the violent behavior that characterizes armed conflict is reinforced by the possibility of receiving rewards. The present study examined the potential influence of two types of rewards in an ongoing setting of conflict: extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. Former combatants active in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (N = 198) were interviewed and questioned about the way they were recruited, the offenses they committed during combat, their level of perceived intrinsic rewards (i.

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Nov
2016

The Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still practiced in many countries and mainly performed for traditional reasons. In this study, the relationship of the FGM type (type I and type III) with anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder as well as the attitude toward FGM was analyzed. For this purpose the data of N=109 of FGM type I and III affected women from Ethiopia were collected.

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Dec
1969

While observational studies show that an active lifestyle including cognitive, physical, and social activities is associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia, experimental evidence from corresponding training interventions is more inconsistent with less pronounced effects. The aim of this study was to evaluate and compare training- and lifestyle-related changes in cognition. This is the first study investigating these associations within the same time period and sample.

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Jan
2017

In persistently unsafe environments, the cumulative exposure to violence predicts not only the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but also of increased aggression and violent outbursts. Substance use disorders interact with these developments, as drug consumption may blunt symptoms and also reduce the threshold for violent acts. Investigating the interplay between these variables and the possible cumulative effect of drug abuse on the attraction to cruelty is a crucial step in understanding the cycle of violence and developing intervention programs that address this cycle in violence-troubled communities such as low-income urban areas in South Africa.

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Apr
2016

Child maltreatment poses a risk to children and adolescents' mental health and may also affect cognitive functioning. Also harsh discipline has been frequently associated with mental health problems. However, within societies in which harsh disciplinary methods are culturally normed and highly prevalent less is known about the association between harsh punishment, mental health problems, and cognitive functioning.

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Mar
2016

A number of evidence-based psychotherapeutic approaches for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are available. They differ in various ways, however, they also have a number of commonalities. Given this situation, clinicians may wonder which treatment program to use, or more specifically, which treatment components are critical for a successful therapy.

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Feb
2017

Most individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have been exposed to severe and traumatic stressors and thus frequently present with symptoms of a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Severe sleep disturbances often accompany these complex cases, but changes of sleep parameters during therapy and the impact of sleep on treatment response have barely been studied. Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) is an evidence-based approach for the treatment of trauma-related psychological disorders.

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May
2016

The endocannabinoid system has been implicated in the regulation of the stress response, fear memory formation, and inflammatory processes. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can result from exposure to extreme stress and is characterized by strong, associative memories for the traumatic events experienced. Furthermore, an elevated physical disease risk has been observed in PTSD, likely to be mediated by inflammatory processes.

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Dec
1969

There is strong support for familial abuse as a risk factor for later delinquency and violent offending, whereas empirical evidence about the contribution of experienced organized violence to the cycle of violence is less clear. Nevertheless not all abused children do become violent offenders. This raises the question of which factors influence these children's risk of future aggressive behavior.

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Dec
1969

Appetitive aggression refers to positive feelings being associated with the perpetration of violent behavior and has been shown to provide resilience against the development of PTSD in combatants returning from the battlefield. Until this point, appetitive aggression has been primarily researched in males. This study investigates appetitive aggression in females.

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Dec
1969

Life in the low-income urban communities of South Africa is imprinted by a cycle of violence in which young males predominantly are in the roles of both victim and perpetrator. There is some evidence that adolescents who show an attraction to cruelty can display high levels of psychosocial functioning despite the presence of posttraumatic stress symptoms. However, the role of appetitive aggression in the context of ongoing threats and daily hassles is not yet fully understood.

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Dec
1969

Research has identified appetitive aggression, i.e., the perception of committed, violent acts as appealing, exciting and fascinating, as a common phenomenon within populations living in precarious and violent circumstances.

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Jul
2017

Depending on the exposure to traumatic stressors and combat, 20% to 50% of ex-combatants present with trauma-related disorders, and more than half of the members of armed groups have a proclivity to violence. Therefore, psychotherapeutic assistance should address both, trauma-related suffering and the lowered threshold for aggressive behaviour.
Supporting the demobilization process of ex-combatants in the eastern DR-Congo, we implemented a version of Narrative Exposure Therapy adapted for Forensic Offender Rehabilitation (FORNET).

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Dec
1969

This study investigated the impact of violent experiences during childhood, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and appetitive aggression on everyday violent behavior in Burundian females with varying participation in war. Moreover, group differences in trauma-related and aggression variables were expected. Appetitive aggression describes the perception of violence perpetration as fascinating and appealing and is a common phenomenon in former combatants.

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Dec
1969

While studies with survivors of single traumatic experiences highlight individual response variation following trauma, research from conflict regions shows that almost everyone develops posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if trauma exposure reaches extreme levels. Therefore, evaluating the effects of cumulative trauma exposure is of utmost importance in studies investigating risk factors for PTSD. Yet, little research has been devoted to evaluate how this important environmental risk factor can be best quantified.

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Dec
1969

Violent behavior can be intrinsically rewarding; especially combatants fighting in current civil wars present with elevated traits of appetitive aggression. The majority of these fighters were recruited as children or adolescents. In the present study, we test whether there is a developmental period where combatants are sensitive for developing a robust trait of appetitive aggression.

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Oct
2015

War-related trauma exposure has been linked to aggression and enhanced levels of community and family violence, suggesting a cycle of violence. Reactive aggression--an aggressive reaction to a perceived threat--has been associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In contrast, appetitive aggression--a hedonic, intrinsically motivated form of aggression--seems to be negatively related to PTSD in offender and military populations.

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Dec
1969

The scent of blood is potentially one of the most fundamental and survival-relevant olfactory cues in humans. This experiment tests the first human parameters of perceptual threshold and emotional ratings in men and women of an artificially simulated smell of fresh blood in contact with the skin. We hypothesize that this scent of blood, with its association with injury, danger, death, and nutrition will be a critical cue activating fundamental motivational systems relating to either predatory approach behavior or prey-like withdrawal behavior, or both.

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Dec
1969

Inconsistent findings exist for the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in patients with stress related disorders. Recent studies point towards early life stress as a potential modulator.
We investigated the impact of childhood sexual abuse on phasic (saliva cortisol reactivity) and tonic (hair cortisol) regulation.

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Dec
1969

Physical as well as cognitive training interventions improve specific cognitive functions but effects barely generalize on global cognition. Combined physical and cognitive training may overcome this shortcoming as physical training may facilitate the neuroplastic potential which, in turn, may be guided by cognitive training. This study aimed at investigating the benefits of combined training on global cognition while assessing the effect of training dosage and exploring the role of several potential effect modifiers.

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Dec
1969

Over the past three decades, research and clinical practice related to the field of traumatic stress have developed tremendously. In parallel with the steady accumulation of basic knowledge, therapeutic approaches have been developed to treat people suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related psychological problems. Today, a number of evidence-based treatments are available.

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Dec
1969

Violent offenders and soldiers are at high risk of developing appetitive aggression and trauma-related disorders, which reduce successful integration into societies. Narrative exposure therapy (NET) for forensic offender rehabilitation (FORNET) aims at reducing symptoms of traumatic stress (e.g.

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Dec
1969

The relationships between traumatic stress and self-conscious emotions, such as shame and guilt, remain to be fully explored, especially in refugees, who frequently are exposed to a multitude of stressors.
The aim of the present study was to investigate shame and guilt in refugee minors and to assess to what extent a greater cumulative exposure to traumatic stressors would result not only in more severe posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms but also in higher levels of shame and guilt.
Thirty-two male refugee minors, who were all below the age of 18 when they sought asylum in Germany, agreed to participate.

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Dec
1969

The shutdown dissociation scale (shut-d).

Eur J Psychotraumatol 2015 13;6:25652. Epub 2015 May 13.
Inga Schalinski, Maggie Schauer, Thomas Elbert
The evolutionary model of the defense cascade by Schauer and Elbert (2010) provides a theoretical frame for a short interview to assess problems underlying and leading to the dissociative subtype of posttraumatic stress disorder. Based on known characteristics of the defense stages "fright," "flag," and "faint," we designed a structured interview to assess the vulnerability for the respective types of dissociation. Most of the scales that assess dissociative phenomena are designed as self-report questionnaires.

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Dec
1969

During the period between 1993 and 2005, the people of Burundi were trapped within a violent civil war. In post-conflict regions, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were found to be widespread. At the same time, combatants often reported having perceived committing violence as exciting and appealing, an experience referred to as appetitive aggression.

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Dec
1969

Research has shown the harmful potential of institutional care on young children; however, little is known about the consequences of institutional care on infants in Sub-Saharan Africa. We compared 35 Tanzanian children who were institutionalized at birth to 4 years of age with a matched group of 35 children who were institutionalized at 5 to 14 years of age. We examined adverse childhood experiences over the course of their entire lives, in their family of origin and in institutional care, and mental health problems at primary school age, such as depressive symptoms, aggressive behavior, and internalizing and externalizing problems.

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Dec
1969

Trained local screeners assessed the mental-health status of male and female students in Northern Ugandan schools. The study aimed to disclose potential differences in mental health-related impairment in two groups, former child soldiers (n = 354) and other war-affected youth (n = 489), as well as to separate factors predicting mental suffering in learners.
Participants were randomly selected.

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Dec
1969

Compared to DSM-IV, the criteria for diagnosing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been modified in DSM-5.
The first aim of this study was to examine how these modifications impact rates of PTSD in a sample of Congolese ex-combatants. The second goal of this study was to investigate whether PTSD symptoms were associated with perpetrator-related acts or victim-related traumatic events.

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Dec
1969

Former members of armed groups in eastern DR Congo had typically witnessed, experienced, and perpetrated extreme forms of violence. Enhanced trauma-related symptoms had been shown in prior research. But also lashing out in self-defense is a familiar response to threat defined as reactive aggression.

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Dec
1969

Street children are exposed to violence, and subsist in poor and generally precarious conditions. In conflict regions, institutional care facilities are often the only well established way to care for vulnerable children. Providing access to school education is considered to be key to allow successful integration into society.

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Dec
1969

Aggressive behavior is thought to divide into two motivational elements: The first being a self-defensively motivated aggression against threat and a second, hedonically motivated "appetitive" aggression. Appetitive aggression is the less understood of the two, often only researched within abnormal psychology. Our approach is to understand it as a universal and adaptive response, and examine the functional neural activity of ordinary men (N = 50) presented with an imaginative listening task involving a murderer describing a kill.

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Dec
1969

Dissemination of psychotherapeutic modules to local counselors seems a key requirement for coping with mental health disasters in conflict regions. We tested a train-the-trainer (TTT) dissemination model for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
We randomly assigned widowed or orphaned survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide with a PTSD diagnosis to narrative exposure therapy (NET) treatment (NET-1, n = 38) or to a 6-month waiting list (WL) condition to be followed by treatment (WL/NET-2, n = 38).

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Dec
1969

Previous research reveals an association between traumatic stress and an increased risk for numerous diseases, including cancer. At the molecular level, stress may increase carcinogenesis via increased DNA damage and impaired DNA repair mechanisms. We assessed DNA breakage in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and measured the cellular capacity to repair single-strand breaks after exposure to ionizing X-radiation.

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Jul
2014

Recent evidence suggests that altered expression and epigenetic modification of the glucocorticoid receptor gene (NR3C1) are related to the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The underlying mechanisms, however, remain unknown. Because glucocorticoid receptor signaling is known to regulate emotional memory processes, particularly in men, epigenetic modifications of NR3C1 might affect the strength of traumatic memories.

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Dec
1969

Current civil wars are characterized by the increasing involvement of civilian populations and the systematic employment of child soldiers. An example of such wars was the conflict in Northern Uganda, where the war-affected population is still challenged by the reintegration of formerly abducted children and youths. A cross-sectional, population-based survey, using a multistage cluster sampling approach of 1,113 Northern Ugandans aged between 12 and 25 in camps for internally displaced persons and locally validated instruments was conducted to assess symptoms and diagnoses of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and probable Depression in war-affected, as well as formerly abducted individuals.

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Jul
2014

Traumatic stress leads to functional reorganization in the brain and may trigger an alarm response. However, when the traumatic event produces severe helplessness, the predominant peri-traumatic response may instead be marked by a dissociative shutdown reaction. The neural correlates of this dissociative shutdown were investigated by presenting rapidly presented affective pictures to female participants with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and comparing responses to a Non-PTSD control group.

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