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Examining Cognitive Functioning Following TASER Exposure: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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Individuals who experience electrical injury suffer significant, sometimes long-term deficits in neuropsychological functioning. The TASER, an electrical device used by thousands of police departments, generates a high-voltage (up to 50 000 V), low-amperage (2.1 mA) current of electricity that is designed to disable a resistive criminal suspect. Questions have emerged regarding the potential for TASER exposure to cause impairment in cognitive functioning. In the current study, healthy human volunteers were randomly assigned to four groups, two of which received a TASER exposure. Participants completed a battery of cognitive tests before and after receiving their assigned treatment. Participants who received a TASER exposure experienced statistically meaningful declines in measures of verbal learning and memory, although deficits lasted less than 1 hour. After TASER exposure, participants also self-reported significant difficulties with concentration, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed. Other dimensions of cognitive functioning were not affected. Our findings show that the effects of TASER exposure on brain functioning are not well understood. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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... This could be due to an impact of stress on general cognitive capability. For example, in a study of Taser exposure, White et al. (2015) showed that being Tasered temporarily impaired subsequent cognitive functioning, as measured by verbal learning ability (although it did not affect other forms of cognition). While Taser has a direct physiological impact, White et al. (2015, p. 606) also found psychological effects on participants' subjective state, which Braise the possibility that emotional factors following TASER exposure are important and may affect test performance^. ...
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