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J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2009 Nov;15(6):879-87. doi: 10.1017/S135561770999049X. Epub 2009 Aug 25.

Cognitive impairment and functioning in PTSD related to intimate partner violence.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92103, USA.


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been associated with neuropsychological impairments across multiple domains, but consensus regarding the cognitive profile of PTSD has not been reached. In this study of women with PTSD related to intimate partner violence (n = 55) and healthy, demographically similar comparison participants (NCs; n = 20), we attempted to control for many potential confounds in PTSD samples. All participants were assessed with a comprehensive neuropsychological battery emphasizing executive functioning, including inhibition, switching, and abstraction. NCs outperformed PTSD participants on most neuropsychological measures, but the differences were significant only on speeded tasks (with and without executive functioning components). The PTSD group's mean performance was within the average range on all neuropsychological tests. Within the PTSD group, more severe PTSD symptoms were associated with slower processing speed, and more severe dissociative symptoms were associated with poorer reasoning performance. These results suggest that women with PTSD related to intimate partner violence demonstrate slower than normal processing speed, which is associated with the severity of psychiatric symptoms. We speculate that the cognitive slowing seen in PTSD may be attributable to reduced attention due to a need to allocate resources to cope with psychological distress or unpleasant internal experiences.

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