Cognitive abnormalities in posttraumatic stress disorder

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2009 Jan;22(1):19-24. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e328314e3bb.


Purpose of review: The current review aims to describe and evaluate research on cognitive difficulties associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) published between January 2007 and June 2008.

Recent findings: The reviewed studies provide additional evidence that negative appraisals and decrements on verbal and autobiographical memory tasks are exhibited by individuals with PTSD relative to controls and may represent preexisting risk factors for PTSD rather than a result or concomitant of PTSD symptoms. In addition, the reviewed findings provide further evidence for source monitoring difficulties and attentional biases toward trauma-relevant information in PTSD. Recent research also provides evidence that, although memories of traumatic events differ in PTSD relative to other types of memories and memories of depressed individuals, they are likely on the same continuum as nontraumatic memories rather than qualitatively different.

Summary: Individuals with PTSD experience cognitive alterations ranging from impairments in overall memory functioning to difficulties specific to trauma-related cues. These cognitive difficulties appear to be importantly related to the development and/or maintenance of the disorder. At this point, it is unclear whether common mechanisms may account for these diverse cognitive difficulties and whether cognitive impairments are attributable to comorbid depression.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Mental Processes
  • Self Concept
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*