Do PTSD Symptoms, TBI, & Neurocognitive Decrements Contribute to Sustained Emotional Neurocognitive Symptoms over Time?

Research Paper Title

Longitudinal Associations among Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Neurocognitive Functioning in Army Soldiers Deployed to the Iraq War.

Background

Military deployment is associated with increased risk of adverse emotional and cognitive outcomes. Longitudinal associations involving posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), relatively mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), and neurocognitive compromise are poorly understood, especially with regard to long-term outcomes, and rigorous research is necessary to better understand the corresponding relationships. The objective of this study was to examine short-term and long-term (>5 years) longitudinal associations among PTSD, neurocognitive performance, and TBI following military deployment.

Methods

In this prospective study, N=315 US Army soldiers were assessed at military installations before (2003-2005) and after (2004-2006) an index deployment to the Iraq War, and again an average of 7.6 years later (2010-2014) as a nationally dispersed cohort of active duty soldiers, reservists, and veterans. Thus, the study design allowed for two measurement intervals over which to examine changes. All assessments included the PTSD Checklist, civilian version, and individually-administered performance-based neurocognitive tests. TBI history was derived from clinical interview.

Results

Autoregressive analyses indicated that visual reproduction scores were inversely related to subsequent PTSD symptom severity at subsequent assessments. Conversely, increases in PTSD symptom severity over each measurement interval were associated with poorer verbal and/or visual recall at the end of each interval, and less efficient reaction time at post-deployment. TBI, primarily mild in this sample, was associated with adverse PTSD symptom outcomes at both post-deployment and long-term follow-up.

Conclusions

These results suggest longitudinal relationships among PTSD symptoms, TBI, and neurocognitive decrements may contribute to sustained emotional and neurocognitive symptoms over time. (JINS, 2017, 23, 1-13).

Reference

Vasterling, J.J., Aslan, M., Lee, L.O., Proctor, S.P., Ko, J., Jacob, S. & Concato, J. (2017) Longitudinal Associations among Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Neurocognitive Functioning in Army Soldiers Deployed to the Iraq War. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society. 1-13. doi: 10.1017/S1355617717001059. [Epub ahead of print].

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