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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Psychological resilience and neurocognitive performance in a traumatized community sample

Aliza P Wingo, Negar Fani, Bekh Bradley, Kerry J Ressler
Depression and Anxiety 2010, 27 (8): 768-74
20186970

BACKGROUND: Whether psychological resilience correlates with neurocognitive performance is largely unknown. Therefore, we assessed association between neurocognitive performance and resilience in individuals with a history of childhood abuse or trauma exposure.

METHODS: In this cross-sectional study of 226 highly traumatized civilians, we assessed neurocognitive performance, history of childhood abuse and other trauma exposure, and current depressive and PTSD symptoms. Resilience was defined as having > or =1 trauma and no current depressive or PTSD symptoms; non-resilience as having > or =1 trauma and current moderate/severe depressive or PTSD symptoms.

RESULTS: The non-resilient group had a higher percentage of unemployment (P=.006) and previous suicide attempts (P<.0001) than the resilient group. Both groups had comparable education and performance on verbal reasoning, nonverbal reasoning, and verbal memory. However, the resilient group performed better on nonverbal memory (P=.016) with an effect size of .35. Additionally, more severe childhood abuse or other trauma exposure was significantly associated with non-resilience. Better nonverbal memory was significantly associated with resilience even after adjusting for severity of childhood abuse, other trauma exposure, sex, and race using multiple logistic regression (adjusted OR=1.2; P=.017).

CONCLUSIONS: We examined resilience as absence of psychopathology despite trauma exposure in a highly traumatized, low socioeconomic, urban population. Resilience was significantly associated with better nonverbal memory, a measure of ability to code, store, and visually recognize concrete and abstract pictorial stimuli. Nonverbal memory may be a proxy for emotional learning, which is often dysregulated in stress-related psychopathology, and may contribute to our understanding of resilience.

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