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Prospective Memory in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

  • J. Cobb Scott (a1) (a2), Steven Paul Woods (a3), Kristen M. Wrocklage (a4) (a5), Brian C. Schweinsburg (a4) (a5), Steven M. Southwick (a4) (a5) and John H. Krystal (a4) (a5) (a6) (a7)...


Objectives: Neuropsychological studies of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have revealed deficits in attention/working memory, processing speed, executive functioning, and retrospective memory. However, little is known about prospective memory (PM) in PTSD, a clinically relevant aspect of episodic memory that supports the encoding and retrieval of intentions for future actions. Methods: Here we examined PM performance in 40 veterans with PTSD compared to 38 trauma comparison (TC) veterans who were exposed to combat but did not develop PTSD. All participants were administered the Memory for Intentions Test (MIST; Raskin, Buckheit, & Sherrod, 2010), a standardized and validated measure of PM, alongside a comprehensive neurocognitive battery, structured diagnostic interviews for psychiatric conditions, and behavioral questionnaires. Results: Veterans with PTSD performed moderately lower than TC on time-based PM, with errors primarily characterized as PM failure errors (i.e., omissions). However, groups did not differ in event-based PM, ongoing task performance, or post-test recognition of PM intentions for each trial. Lower time-based PM performance was specifically related to hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD. Time-based-performance was also associated with neuropsychological measures of retrospective memory and executive functions in the PTSD group. Nevertheless, PTSD was significantly associated with poorer PM above and beyond age and performance in retrospective memory and executive functions. Discussion: Results provide initial evidence of PM dysfunction in PTSD, especially in strategic monitoring during time-based PM tasks. Findings have potential implications for everyday functioning and health behaviors in persons with PTSD, and deserve replication and future study. (JINS, 2016, 22, 724–734)


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: J. Cobb Scott, MIRECC/116, Philadelphia VA Medical Center, 3900 Woodland Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19104. E-mail:


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