Background: Most of the neurocognitive research in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) thus far focused on impairment in learning and memory, neglecting the impact of PTSD on executive functioning processes. Therefore, this study specifically aims to investigate the impact of PTSD on frontal lobe executive functioning. Given the high prevalence rate for traumatic event exposure in South Africa, this study provides important findings on the role intact executive functioning plays in all areas of daily functioning, including the maintenance of good mental and physical health.
Methods: Executive functions were assessed using an Executive Functioning Battery consisting of the three subtests of the Delis Kaplan Executive Functioning System (e.g., Trail Making Test, Colour-Word Interference Test, and Tower Test), as well as the Executive Functioning Index. The study sample consisted of 88 adult South African citizens who were divided into two groups (PTSD+; n = 44; PTSD–; n = 44) with different levels of trauma exposure.
Results: PTSD was linked with impairment in executive functioning domains such as attention, cognitive flexibility, inhibition, working memory, and planning. Important gender differences were also reported in terms of empathy and organisation. In addition, education also appeared to affect frontal lobe executive functioning differently.
Conclusions: The data suggest that overall, PTSD impaired executive functioning processes. It is therefore critical that assessment of executive functioning form part of a comprehensive treatment plan for individuals diagnosed with PTSD.
Mini Dissertation (MA)--University of Pretoria, 2019.