Deficits in short-term memory in posttraumatic stress disorder

Am J Psychiatry. 1993 Jul;150(7):1015-9. doi: 10.1176/ajp.150.7.1015.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare the memory function of patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to that of matched comparison subjects.

Method: Vietnam veterans with combat-related PTSD (N = 26) were compared to physically healthy comparison subjects (N = 15) matched for age, race, sex, years of education, handedness, socioeconomic status, and alcohol abuse. Memory and intelligence were assessed with a battery of neuropsychological tests, including the Russell revision of the Wechsler Memory Scale, the Selective Reminding Test, and subtests of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R).

Results: The PTSD patients scored significantly lower than the comparison subjects on the Wechsler Memory Scale logical memory measures for immediate recall (mean = 11.6, SD = 3.3 versus mean = 20.9, SD = 6.6) and delayed recall (mean = 8.0, SD = 3.3 versus mean = 17.8, SD = 6.4). The PTSD patients also scored significantly lower on the total recall, long-term storage, long-term retrieval, and delayed recall measures for the verbal component of the Selective Reminding Test and on the recall, long-term storage, long-term retrieval, and continuous long-term retrieval measures for the visual component of the Selective Reminding Test. There was no significant difference between the PTSD patients and comparison subjects in prorated full-scale IQ as measured by the WAIS-R.

Conclusions: Patients with PTSD may have deficits in short-term memory. Counseling and rehabilitation that address these deficits may be of value for PTSD patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Wechsler Scales*