Effects of military deployment on cognitive functioning

Andrea S Vincent, Tresa Roebuck-Spencer, Mary S Lopez, David A Twillie, Bret W Logan, Stephen J Grate, Karl E Friedl, Robert E Schlegel, Kirby Gilliland
Military Medicine 2012, 177 (3): 248-55
Military deployment poses many risks for cognitive functioning. When deployed individuals are compared to a nondeployed control group, there is some evidence that deployment may be associated with declines in cognitive functioning. The current study examined cognitive performance before and following deployment in a large sample of active duty military personnel (N = 8002) who reported no traumatic brain injury (TBI). Cognition was assessed using the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics version 4 TBI Military (ANAM4 TBI-MIL) battery, a computer-based battery of tests measuring attention, processing speed, and general cognitive efficiency. Pre- and postdeployment scores were compared using repeated measures analyses. Although statistically significant differences were observed for all tests (with 5 of 7 tests demonstrating performance improvement), effect sizes were very small for all but 1 test, indicating that performance differences had minimal clinical significance. Likewise, determination of change for individuals using reliable change indices revealed that a very small percentage (<3%) of this presumed healthy sample showed meaningful decline in cognition following deployment. Analyses indicated that despite risks for cognitive decline while in theater, deployment had minimal to no lasting effect on cognition as measured by ANAM4 TBI-Mil upon return from deployment.

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