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Psychological resilience and neurocognitive performance in a traumatized community sample

Authors

  • Aliza P. Wingo M.D.,

    1. Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia
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  • Negar Fani M.S.,

    1. Department of Neuropsychology and Behavioral Neuroscience, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia
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  • Bekh Bradley Ph.D.,

    1. Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia
    2. Atlanta VA Medical Center, Decatur, Georgia
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  • Kerry J. Ressler M.D., Ph.D.

    Corresponding author
    1. Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia
    2. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevy Chase, Maryland
    3. Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
    • Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Yerkes Research Center, Emory University, 954 Gatewood Drive, Atlanta, GA 30329
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  • Disclosures: Drs Wingo and Bradley have no relevant potential conflicts of interest. Dr. Ressler has received funding support related to other studies from Lundbeck, NARSAD, Burroughs Wellcome Foundation, NIMH, NIDA, and is a founder of Extinction Pharmaceuticals for NMDA-based therapeutics.

Abstract

Background: Whether psychological resilience correlates with neurocognitive performance is largely unknown. Therefore, we assessed association between neurocognitive performance and resilience in individuals with a history of childhood abuse or trauma exposure. Methods: In this cross-sectional study of 226 highly traumatized civilians, we assessed neurocognitive performance, history of childhood abuse and other trauma exposure, and current depressive and PTSD symptoms. Resilience was defined as having ≥1 trauma and no current depressive or PTSD symptoms; non-resilience as having ≥1 trauma and current moderate/severe depressive or PTSD symptoms. Results: The non-resilient group had a higher percentage of unemployment (P=.006) and previous suicide attempts (P<.0001) than the resilient group. Both groups had comparable education and performance on verbal reasoning, nonverbal reasoning, and verbal memory. However, the resilient group performed better on nonverbal memory (P=.016) with an effect size of .35. Additionally, more severe childhood abuse or other trauma exposure was significantly associated with non-resilience. Better nonverbal memory was significantly associated with resilience even after adjusting for severity of childhood abuse, other trauma exposure, sex, and race using multiple logistic regression (adjusted OR=1.2; P=.017). Conclusions: We examined resilience as absence of psychopathology despite trauma exposure in a highly traumatized, low socioeconomic, urban population. Resilience was significantly associated with better nonverbal memory, a measure of ability to code, store, and visually recognize concrete and abstract pictorial stimuli. Nonverbal memory may be a proxy for emotional learning, which is often dysregulated in stress-related psychopathology, and may contribute to our understanding of resilience. Depression and Anxiety, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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