MENTAL IMAGERY RESEARCH
Intrusive mental imagery is a key symptom of numerous psychological anxiety disorders. It has been found to play a critical role not only in their causation but also in their maintenance. For instance, in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), image intrusions occur as ‘flashbacks’ where the patient experiences recurrent sensory images of a traumatic event as if it is happening in the ‘here and now’. These flashbacks force patients to relive the incident, and keep the trauma 'alive'.
Our research aims to elucidate the role of intrusive mental imagery in anxiety disorders, and how the occurrence of such intrusions can be blocked to prevent the development of a mental disorder. We investigate what features of cognitive tasks reduce mental intrusions (e.g. memory consolidation), and why certain types of cognitive tasks are more beneficial than others. Assessing and targeting intrusive mental imagery will enable us to develop successful psychological interventions for treating anxiety disorders.