Memory, Attention, Function, and Mood among Patients with Chronic Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

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We report a study of memory, attention, function, and mood among 36 male Vietnam War Veterans suffering from chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD subjects (N = 36) were in good physical health, suffering from moderate depression, and not knowingly suffering from other mental disorders. Control subjects (N = 18) were in good physical health, not knowingly suffering from a mental disorder, and matched with PTSD subject for age, sex, and level of education. Assessment instruments for PTSD subjects included the PostTraumatic Stress Diagnostic Scale™ (clinician administered), the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (clinician administered), and the Cognitive Evaluation Protocol® (CEP), a touchscreen computer assessment instrument that is self-administered by subjects. CEP was administered twice to PTSD subjects 1 month apart; other instruments were administered at the beginning of the study. Control subjects took CEP once and were administered the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and the PostTraumatic Stress Diagnostic Scale once. Compared with control subjects, PTSD subjects performed significantly less well on CEP for the three cognitive domains of attention, memory, and function and had highly elevated depression scores. An interaction between depression and memory was found but not with depression and attention. There was no evidence of reduced information processing speed among PTSD subjects. Comparisons between the three assessment instruments showed a high degree of cross-assessment agreement. The findings are consistent with reports that chronic PTSD is associated with compromised memory, attention, and function. The study documents the feasibility of using self-administrated touchscreen computer programs to evaluate and track features of mental disorders.

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