More than symptom reduction: Changes in executive function over the course of PTSD treatment

Authors

  • Kristen H. Walter,

    Corresponding author
    1. Kent State University and Cincinnati VA Medical Center
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Psychology, Kent State University, and Cincinnati VA Medical Center
    • Cincinnati VA Medical Center, 3200 Vine Street, Mental Health Care Line A926, Cincinnati, Ohio 45220
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  • Patrick A. Palmieri,

    1. Center for the Treatment and Study of Traumatic Stress
    Current affiliation:
    1. Center for the Treatment and Study of Traumatic Stress, Summa Health System, Akron
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  • John Gunstad

    1. Kent State University and Summa Health System, Akron
    Current affiliation:
    1. Kent State University, and Department of Psychiatry, Summa Health System, Akron
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Abstract

Persons with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have neuropsychological impairments in multiple cognitive domains, though particularly in executive function. This exploratory study examined whether these cognitive impairments were alleviated following trauma-focused treatment. Fifteen women underwent neuropsychological testing within a week of treatment onset and approximately 3 months later. Results suggest medium-sized improvement in multiple aspects of executive function, including tests of cognitive flexibility/set-shifting and organization/planning. If replicated in larger samples, such findings raise the possibility that treatment may alleviate neuropsychological impairment in persons with PTSD and thus reduce risk for poor outcome.

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