The role of major depression in neurocognitive functioning in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder

Mirjam J. Nijdam, Berthold P. R. Gersons, Miranda Olff

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Background: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) frequently co-occur after traumatic experiences and share neurocognitive disturbances in verbal memory and executive functioning. However, few attempts have been made to systematically assess the role of a comorbid MDD diagnosis in neuropsychological studies in PTSD. Objective: The purpose of the current study is to investigate neurocognitive deficits in PTSD patients with and without MDD. We hypothesized that PTSD patients with comorbid MDD (PTSD+MDD) would have significantly lower performance on measures of verbal memory and executive functioning than PTSD patients without MDD (PTSD-MDD). Method: Participants included in this study were 140 treatment-seeking outpatients who had a diagnosis of PTSD after various single traumatic events and participated in a randomized controlled trial comparing different treatment types. Baseline neuropsychological data were compared between patients with PTSD+MDD (n = 84) and patients with PTSD+MDD (n = 56). Results: The PTSD+MDD patients had more severe verbal memory deficits in learning and retrieving words than patients with PTSD alone. There were no differences between the groups in recall of a coherent paragraph, recognition, shifting of attention, and cognitive interference. Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that a more impaired neurocognitive profile may be associated with the presence of comorbid MDD, with medium-sized group differences for verbal memory but not for executive functioning. From a clinical standpoint, being aware that certain verbal memory functions are more restricted in patients with comorbid PTSD and MDD may be relevant for treatment outcome of trauma-focused psychotherapy
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19979
JournalEuropean journal of psychotraumatology
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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