Executive Functioning and Resilience: Learning Outcomes During High Fidelity Training in Humanitarian Aid Workers
Traumatic stress and associated disorders are becoming more prevalent in humanitarian aid workers in the context of their employment. Training workshops have been offered by some aid organizations as a method to foster resilience and combat the effects of traumatic stress. In theory, these trainings promote cognitive flexibility during traumatic events, which suggests that executive functioning may help undergird resilience. The constructs of executive functioning and resilience were studied in a group of 29 humanitarian aid workers (8 women and 21 men; mean age = 40.0 years) being deployed to violent regions around the world. They completed self-report questionnaires prior to a high fidelity stress exposure training workshop where executive functioning and learning were assessed through neuropsychological measures. Results showed that aid workers with stronger executive functioning had stronger visual learning under stress and higher levels of resilience. These relationships seem to support McEwen’s (2010) theory of fronto-temporal circuitry such that stress inhibits prefrontal functions through activation of amygdala, leading to heightened emotional reactivity and poorer critical thinking.
PSYD in Clinical Psychology
Amano, Stacy S.
Executive functions, Neuropsychology, Stress, Resilience, Psychic trauma, Post-traumatic stress disorder
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