The contributions of self-reported injury characteristics and psychiatric symptoms to cognitive functioning in OEF/OIF veterans with mild traumatic brain injury

Lauren L Drag, Robert J Spencer, Sara J Walker, Percival H Pangilinan, Linas A Bieliauskas
Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society: JINS 2012, 18 (3): 576-84
Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) affects a significant number of combat veterans returning from Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF). Although resolution of mTBI symptoms is expected over time, some individuals continue to report lingering cognitive difficulties. This study examined the contributions of self-reported mTBI injury characteristics (e.g., loss of consciousness, post-traumatic amnesia) and psychiatric symptoms to both subjective and objective cognitive functioning in a sample of 167 OEF/OIF veterans seen in a TBI clinic. Injury characteristics were not associated with performance on neuropsychological tests but were variably related to subjective ratings of cognitive functioning. Psychiatric symptoms were highly prevalent and fully mediated most of the relationships between injury characteristics and cognitive ratings. This indicates that mTBI characteristics such as longer time since injury and loss of consciousness or post-traumatic amnesia can lead to increased perceived cognitive deficits despite having no objective effects on cognitive performance. Psychiatric symptoms were associated with both cognitive ratings and neuropsychological performance, illustrating the important role that psychiatric treatment can potentially play in optimizing functioning. Finally, subjective cognitive ratings were not predictive of neuropsychological performance once psychiatric functioning was statistically controlled, suggesting that neuropsychological assessment provides valuable information that cannot be gleaned from self-report alone.

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