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Objective. Previous research has indicated that cohesive organization of traumatic memories may be necessary for the processing and resolution of post-trauma symptoms. The present study aimed to evaluate the qualitative features of memory organization, dissociation and perception of threat in traumatic memories recalled by individuals with and without acute stress disorder (ASD).

Design. Survivors of motor vehicle accidents (MVA) with either ASD or no ASD participated in a study on traumatic memories within 12 twelve days of the MVA.

Method. Participants audiotaped recollections of their memories of the MVA were coded in terms of disorganized structure, dissociative content and perception of threat. Result. The recollections of ASD participants were characterized by disorganization and dissociation more than those of non-ASD participants.

Conclusion. The current findings suggest that disorganized memory structure may be one process that impedes access to, and modification of, trauma-related cognitive schema.