Performance on an attentional task was assessed in posttraumatic stress disorder patients with substance abuse histories (PTSD-SA). Positron emission tomography (PET) was used to measure concurrent regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF). Eight male PTSD-SA patients and eight normal subjects each received three serial PET scans with 15O-labeled water under the following conditions: (1) resting, (2) auditory continuous performance task (ACPT1), and (3) repeat auditory task (ACPT2). PTSD-SA patients made more errors of commission on the ACPT than normal subjects. Examination of right frontal and parietal cortex ACPT task substrates revealed decreased parietal blood flow in PTSD-SA, which may represent a pathophysiology for poor attentional task performance in PTSD-SA. Attentional problems may underlie other symptomatology in PTSD.