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Among individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), verbal learning and memory are areas of weakness compared with other cognitive domains (e.g., visuospatial memory). In this study, previously deployed military veterans completed clinical assessments of word memory and vocabulary (n = 243) and a laboratory task measuring encoding, free recall, repetition priming, and recognition of words (n = 147). Impaired verbal memory was selectively related to reexperiencing symptoms of PTSD but was not associated with other symptom groupings or blast-induced traumatic brain injury. Implicit priming of response times following word repetition was also unrelated to clinical symptoms. Instead, slowed response times during encoding explained associations between reexperiencing and memory performance. These findings are consistent with alterations in attentional control explaining PTSD-related verbal-memory deficits. Such findings have implications for understanding trauma-focused psychotherapy and recovery, which may depend on efficient attentional processing of words to alter posttraumatic reexperiencing symptoms.
Clinical Psychological Science
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