LEARNING AND MEMORY IMPAIRMENT IN PTSD: RELATIONSHIP TO DEPRESSION


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Abstract

Memory function was studied in combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), combat veterans without PTSD, and noncombat veterans. The Vocabulary and Digit Span subtests of the WAIS and Logical Memory (LMS) and Verbal Paired Associates (VPAS) subtests of the Wechsler Memory Scale III were administered. Combat veterans with PTSD showed impaired memory on the LMS and VPAS compared to combat veterans without PTSD or noncombat veterans. Veterans with PTSD also showed lower WAIS Vocabulary subtest scores—but not digit span subtest scores—than combat veterans without PTSD or noncombat veterans. Medication status, co-morbid diagnosis, and age all failed to account for these memory differences, but when self-assessed depression—as measured by the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale—or anxiety—as measured by the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Scale— was statistically removed, group differences on these memory measures were no longer significant. However, using a stepwise regression procedure, in which both anxiety and depression were employed to predict the LMS and VPAS scores, only the Zung scale reliably predicated performance. The present results, showing that PTSD is associated with general learning and memory impairments, is an important finding, but the specific effects of depression as a mediator of these deficits should be further studied.

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