Neuropsychological function in female victims of intimate partner violence with and without posttraumatic stress disorder

Author: Stein, M.B.; Kennedy, C.M.; Twamley, E.W.

Description: BACKGROUND: Various aspects of neuropsychologic function have been reported to be abnormal in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); however, the majority of these data come from studies of seriously ill, treatment-seeking samples with substantial substance use comorbidity. Few studies have included similarly trauma-exposed subjects without PTSD, and fewer still have focused on women.

METHODS: Thirty-nine female victims of intimate partner violence (IPV; 22 without lifetime PTSD and 17 with current PTSD), and 22 nonvictimized comparison (NC) subjects were administered tests of attention, working memory, visuoconstruction, language ability, learning and memory, and executive functioning.

RESULTS: The IPV and NC subjects did not demonstrate statistically significant differences on most neuropsychologic tests, with the exception of those in the realm of working memory, visuoconstruction, and executive functioning. The IPV subjects, regardless of PTSD status, had poorer performance on tasks of speeded, sustained auditory attention and working memory (Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test) and response inhibition (Stroop). The IPV subjects with PTSD performed worse than NCs on a set-shifting task (Trail Making Test, Part B). No consistent relationships were noted between neuropsychologic functioning and severity of childhood abuse or domestic violence experiences.

CONCLUSIONS: Cognitive deficits in IPV subjects were confined to measures of working memory, visuoconstruction, and executive function; were subtle; and were not uniformly worse among those with current PTSD. This pattern, however, is consistent with frontal-subcortical dysfunction in traumatized women. The clinical significance of these findings deserves further study.

Subject headings: Adult; Attention; Case-Control Studies; Crime Victims–psychology; Domestic Violence; Female; Humans; Language; Memory; Neuropsychological Tests; Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic–psychology

Publication year: 2002

Journal or book title: Biological Psychiatry

Volume: 52

Issue: 11

Pages: 1079-1088

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Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 53