Research Reports - Impaired response inhibition in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2012 Sep;18(5):917-26

Swick D, Honzel N, Larsen J, Ashley V, Justus T

Combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can show impairments
in executive control and increases in impulsivity. The current study examined the
effects of PTSD on motor response inhibition, a key cognitive control function. A
Go/NoGo task was administered to veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD based on
semi-structured clinical interview using DSM-IV criteria (n = 40) and age-matched
control veterans (n = 33). Participants also completed questionnaires to assess
self-reported levels of PTSD and depressive symptoms. Performance measures from
the patients (error rates and reaction times) were compared to those from
controls. PTSD patients showed a significant deficit in response inhibition,
committing more errors on NoGo trials than controls. Higher levels of PTSD and
depressive symptoms were associated with higher error rates. Of the three symptom
clusters, re-experiencing was the strongest predictor of performance. Because the
co-morbidity of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and PTSD was high in this
population, secondary analyses compared veterans with PTSD+mTBI (n = 30) to
veterans with PTSD only (n = 10). Although preliminary, results indicated the two
patient groups did not differ on any measure (p > .88). Since cognitive
impairments could hinder the effectiveness of standard PTSD therapies,
incorporating treatments that strengthen executive functions might be considered
in the future.

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