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Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) history have high rates of performance validity test (PVT) failure. The study aimed to determine whether those with scores in the invalid versus valid range on PVTs show similar benefit from psychotherapy and if psychotherapy improves PVT performance.
Veterans (N = 100) with PTSD, mild-to-moderate TBI history, and cognitive complaints underwent neuropsychological testing at baseline, post-treatment, and 3-month post-treatment. Veterans were randomly assigned to cognitive processing therapy (CPT) or a novel hybrid intervention integrating CPT with TBI psychoeducation and cognitive rehabilitation strategies from Cognitive Symptom Management and Rehabilitation Therapy (CogSMART). Performance below standard cutoffs on any PVT trial across three different PVT measures was considered invalid (PVT-Fail), whereas performance above cutoffs on all measures was considered valid (PVT-Pass).
Although both PVT groups exhibited clinically significant improvement in PTSD symptoms, the PVT-Pass group demonstrated greater symptom reduction than the PVT-Fail group. Measures of post-concussive and depressive symptoms improved to a similar degree across groups. Treatment condition did not moderate these results. Rate of valid test performance increased from baseline to follow-up across conditions, with a stronger effect in the SMART-CPT compared to CPT condition.
Both PVT groups experienced improved psychological symptoms following treatment. Veterans who failed PVTs at baseline demonstrated better test engagement following treatment, resulting in higher rates of valid PVTs at follow-up. Veterans with invalid PVTs should be enrolled in trauma-focused treatment and may benefit from neuropsychological assessment after, rather than before, treatment.
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