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

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 June 2015

Joseph DeGutis
Affiliation:
Translational Research Center for TBI and Stress Disorders (TRACTS), VA RR&D TBI Center of Excellence, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
Michael Esterman
Affiliation:
Translational Research Center for TBI and Stress Disorders (TRACTS), VA RR&D TBI Center of Excellence, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts
Bay McCulloch
Affiliation:
Translational Research Center for TBI and Stress Disorders (TRACTS), VA RR&D TBI Center of Excellence, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts
Andrew Rosenblatt
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, University of Houston, Houston, Texas
William Milberg
Affiliation:
Translational Research Center for TBI and Stress Disorders (TRACTS), VA RR&D TBI Center of Excellence, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), Boston Division VA Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
Regina McGlinchey
Affiliation:
Translational Research Center for TBI and Stress Disorders (TRACTS), VA RR&D TBI Center of Excellence, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), Boston Division VA Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
Corresponding
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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)

Type
Research Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2015 

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