Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and posttraumatic stress are prevalent in military service members and share objective and subjective cognitive symptoms, complicating recovery. We investigated the effects of remote mTBI characteristics and current posttraumatic stress symptoms on neuropsychological performance in 152 veterans with a history of remote mTBI and current cognitive concerns. Participants completed clinical neuropsychological evaluations within a Veterans Affairs Level-II TBI/Polytrauma outpatient clinic (i.e. tertiary trauma care center for US military veterans outside of a research or teaching hospital setting). Archival data analysis of mTBI injury characteristics, clinical diagnoses, scores on the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist–Military Version (PCL-M) and performance on tests of processing speed, attention and executive function was conducted. Hierarchical linear regression demonstrated that elevated PCL-M scores were associated with slower performance on trail making test (TMT) Parts A and B (p < .016). PCL-M symptoms moderated the effect of alteration of consciousness (AOC) on TMT performance, with endorsement of AOC associated with better performance, but only when PCL-M scores were high (p < .005). Follow-up mediation analyses demonstrated that PCL-M score fully mediated the relationship between AOC and TMT-A performance and partially mediated the relationship between AOC and TMT-B performance. Post-hoc analyses meant to separate the impact of processing speed on TMT-B were all non-significant. Remote mTBI characteristics, specifically AOC, were not associated with decrements in cognitive performance. Posttraumatic symptoms were associated with worse processing speed, suggesting that psychological distress and psychopathology are contributing factors in understanding and treating persistent cognitive distress following remote mTBI.

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This post is Copyright: Ryan C. Thompson,
Meredith R. D. Melinder,
Heather A. Daly,
Stacie L. Warren | January 12, 2024
Wiley: Journal of Neuropsychology: Table of Contents