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Mental imagery involves an experience like perception in the absence of a percept, such as “seeing in our mind’s eye”. Intrusive, affect-laden mental images cause distress across mental disorders. Intrusive memories that appear to “flash backwards” to past trauma occur in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while images that "flash forwards" to the future can occur in bipolar disorder.

My research group has an interest in understanding and treating maladaptive mental imagery via psychological interventions. To do this, we are curious about what we can learn from experimental psychology and neuroscience to inform treatment development.

We will discuss experimental work using a traumatic film paradigm to study intrusive memories, for example to reduce their occurrence via dual task interference even some time after the index event. Proof-of-concept translational work uses a similar protocol to the laboratory but after real trauma in a hospital emergency department (Iyadurai et al, 2017, Mol Psychai). A broader vision for science-informed psychological treatment innovation will be explored (Holmes et al, 2018, Lancet Psychiatry).