- This lesson is designed to help students understand how reduced function in the vmPFC might be connected with symptoms of PTSD. As with other similar lesson ideas, it tries to make the abstract more concrete by giving real-life examples.
Students are to read the following summary of Due, a fictionary Vietnamese War vetern. After reading the summary, they are to work together to be able to explain why Due is having these symptoms (see below in red). They should use the textbook to help them and can read this lesson as they work through this problem.
Due – An ex-Vietnamese War Veteran
Due is an ex-Vietnamese soldier from the American war in Vietnam. He still suffers from intrusive memories of some events, like the time he and his friends were caught by American soldiers and three of his friends and comrades were executed. Sometimes the memory of this event comes into Due’s mind and he can’t control it. Like, he’ll be just sitting and play chess with his friend and then suddenly the memories come back, or he will be in the grocery store and starts remembering that day.
Due underwent an fMRI scan and it was revealed that he has low function in his ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is a common finding in people with PTSD.
If we consider that the prefrontal cortex plays an important role in executive cognitive functions (e.g. controlling information in our working memory), how could you explain Due’s intrusive memories?
Travis Dixon is an IB Psychology teacher, author, workshop leader, examiner and IA moderator.