The longitudinal assessment of executive functioning in Holocaust survivors with and without posttraumatic stress disorder / by Shira T. Kaufman.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder in which symptoms can persist for a lifetime, potentially altering cognitive abilities as individuals age. Research suggests a strong relationship between frontal lobe dysfunction and PTSD. Similarly, many studies have found evidence of impaired executive functioning, controlled by the frontal lobe, and PTSD. There are currently no longitudinal studies of executive functioning performance in older trauma survivors with and without PTSD. It is therefore unclear what the long-term effects of trauma exposure and PTSD are on executive functioning. The goal of the present study was to explore the possibility of an "accelerated" aging process that speeds up the changes in executive functioning in individuals with PTSD. The purpose of the investigation was twofold: to examine whether an accelerated aging effect in the domain of frontal lobe functioning, as measured by neuropsychological tests of executive functioning, occurs in trauma-exposed individuals as compared to age-matched controls and to examine whether a diagnosis of PTSD affects the extent of decline. Twenty-seven Holocaust survivors (13 PTSD-, 14 PTSD+) and 20 age-matched control participants were administered the Stroop test at baseline and the Trail-Making Test, Verbal Fluency Test (VFS), Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS), the Impact of Event Scale (IES), and the Civilian Mississippi Scale for PTSD (CMS) at the five-year follow-up. Participants' performance on the Stroop was used to control for baseline executive functioning. Scores on the CAPS scales, IES, and CMS were used to assess the relationship between symptomatology of PTSD and executive functioning performance at follow-up. Results of the study found that exposure to trauma and PTSD were both related to executive functioning when controlling for baseline performance. In addition, intrusive and hyperarousal symptoms were found to be related to poorer performance on executive functioning measures, suggesting that a diagnosis of PTSD may not be the determining factor for who exhibits difficulties on executive functioning tasks. These findings support a dimensional view of PTSD, whereby individuals with more intrusive symptoms have more difficulty in executive functioning tasks. Strengths and limitations of the study are discussed as well as suggestions for future research and clinical implications of the study.
Record last modified: 2018-05-18 16:20:00
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