Long-Term Follow-Up of Attentional and Executive Functions of PTSD Patients

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Scientific evidence showed significant correlations between symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and deficits in cognitive processing. Understanding how these deficits correlate with symptoms of PTSD in prospective studies can provide arguments to improve explanatory models of pathological mechanisms of this disorder. Our objective was to prospectively evaluate adult victims of urban violence suffering from PTSD, considering its impact on attention, executive functions, and the factors associated with these changes. We reapplied a battery of neuropsychological tests on a cohort of 43 patients with PTSD due to urban violence. We also reapplied the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-I) scales. We administered a battery of neuropsychological tests: Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS-III) Digit Span, Wechsler’s Memory Scale—Revised (WMS-III), Spatial Span, Stroop, and Wisconsin Card Sort Test (WCST). Patients showed a clinical improvement evidenced by a statistically significant decrease in CAPS and BDI scores at follow-up. Regarding neuropsychological testing, significant differences were found at follow ups such as a reduced number of perseverative errors in WCST (p = .004) and an increase in the span of the backward digit subtest (p = .007). These changes are directly associated with education level (p = .030), and PTSD symptoms (p = .005). Patients on average showed an improvement in PTSD and depression symptoms at reevaluation. The data showed an improvement in cognitive performance of executive functions such as working memory and cognitive flexibility over the years. These enhancements are significant for patients with more years of study, and for those that have recovered clinically, showing fewer symptoms of depression PTSD.

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