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Neuropsychology. 2007 May;21(3):275-84.

Attentional networks reveal executive function deficits in posttraumatic stress disorder.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1227, USA.


Executive function was assessed with the Trail Making Test (Army Individual Test Battery; M. D. Lezak, 1983), the Comprehensive Trail Making Test (C. Reynolds, 2002), and a neurocognitive measure of executive control (Attentional Network Task [ANT]; J. I. Fan, B. D. McCandliss, T. Somer, A. Raz, & M. I. Posner, 2002) in 19 undergraduates with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptom Scale-Self-Report version; E. B. Foa, D. S. Riggs, C. V. Dancu, & B. O. Rothbaum, 1993), 15 high trauma participants without PTSD, and 18 low trauma control participants. Although groups did not differ on any trail making task or on the ANT measures of alerting or orienting, PTSD participants were significantly more impaired on the ANT executive network index than were high or low trauma control participants, even when level of depressive symptoms was covaried. Previous animal research identified a relationship between dopamine and the ANT measure of executive function. Elevated PTSD symptom severity and levels of hyperarousal, reexperiencing, and avoidance-numbing were associated significantly with executive function deficits indexed by the ANT. These results indicate a potentially subtle but specific deficit in executive function and a possible relationship between PTSD symptoms and irregularities in dopamine function.

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