Executive function and PTSD: disengaging from trauma.

Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego (UCSD), 8939 Villa La Jolla Dr., Suite 200, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.
Neuropharmacology (Impact Factor: 4.11). 02/2011; 62(2):686-94. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.02.008
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Neuropsychological approaches represent an important avenue for identifying susceptibility and resiliency factors relating to the development and maintenance of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms post-trauma. This review will summarize results from prospective longitudinal and retrospective cross-sectional studies investigating executive function associated with PTSD. This research points specifically towards subtle impairments in response inhibition and attention regulation that may predate trauma exposure, serve as risk factors for the development of PTSD, and relate to the severity of symptoms. These impairments may be exacerbated within emotional or trauma-related contexts, and may relate to dysfunction within dorsal prefrontal networks. A model is presented concerning how such impairments may contribute to the clinical profile of PTSD and lead to the use of alternative coping styles such as avoidance. Further neuropsychological research is needed to identify the effects of treatment on cognitive function and to potentially characterize mechanisms of current PTSD treatments. Knowledge gained from cognitive and neuroscientific research may prove valuable for informing the future development of novel, more effective, treatments for PTSD. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder'.

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