Memory and prefrontal functions in earthquake survivors: differences between current and past post-traumatic stress disorder patients

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Abstract

Objective

Many studies reported deficits in cognitive functions in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Most were, however, conducted on man-made trauma survivors. The high comorbidity of alcohol use and depression with PTSD in these studies further complicated the interpretation of their results. We compared prefrontal lobe functions and memory in three earthquake survivor groups: current PTSD, past PTSD and no PTSD. We hypothesized that prefrontal performances of the current and past PTSD groups would be worse than that of control group.

Method

Survivors of the 1999 earthquakes in Turkey were evaluated for current and lifetime PTSD. Memory and prefrontal functions were assessed by a neuropsychological test battery.

Results

Current PTSD patients performed worse on attention, verbal memory, verbal fluency, and psychomotor speed. Past PTSD group was similar to the controls on most cognitive measures, except for their vulnerability to proactive interference and low performance in verbal fluency for animal names.

Conclusion

Our findings indicate that the prefrontal organization and monitorization of verbally processed information are defective in earthquake-related PTSD patients, more so in the current PTSD group.

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