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Posttraumatic Psychological Symptoms are Associated with Reduced Inhibitory Control, not General Executive Dysfunction

  • Joseph DeGutis (a1) (a2), Michael Esterman (a1) (a3), Bay McCulloch (a1), Andrew Rosenblatt (a4), William Milberg (a1) (a5) (a6) and Regina McGlinchey (a1) (a5) (a6)...

Abstract

Although there is mounting evidence that greater PTSD symptoms are associated with reduced executive functioning, it is not fully understood whether this association is more global or specific to certain executive function subdomains, such as inhibitory control. We investigated the generality of the association between PTSD symptoms and executive function by administering a broad battery of sensitive executive functioning tasks to a cohort of returning Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans with varying PTSD symptoms. Only tasks related to inhibitory control explained significant variance in PTSD symptoms as well as symptoms of depression, while measures of working memory, measures of switching, and measures simultaneously assessing multiple executive function subdomains did not. Notably, the two inhibitory control measures that showed the highest correlation with PTSD and depressive symptoms, measures of response inhibition and distractor suppression, explained independent variance. These findings suggest that greater posttraumatic psychological symptoms are not associated with a general decline in executive functioning but rather are more specifically related to stopping automatic responses and resisting internal and external distractions. (JINS, 2015, 21, 342–352)

Copyright

Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Joseph DeGutis, Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), Boston VA Healthcare System, Boston, MA 02130. E-mail: degutis@wjh.harvard.edu

References

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Posttraumatic Psychological Symptoms are Associated with Reduced Inhibitory Control, not General Executive Dysfunction

  • Joseph DeGutis (a1) (a2), Michael Esterman (a1) (a3), Bay McCulloch (a1), Andrew Rosenblatt (a4), William Milberg (a1) (a5) (a6) and Regina McGlinchey (a1) (a5) (a6)...

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