Neuropsychological outcomes in OEF/OIF veterans with self-report of blast exposure: associations with mental health, but not MTBI

Mieke Verfaellie, Ginette Lafleche, Avron Spiro, Kathryn Bousquet
Neuropsychology 2014, 28 (3): 337-46

OBJECTIVE: To examine neuropsychological outcomes in veterans of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) with self-reported histories of blast exposure and determine the contribution of deployment-related mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression to performance. The effect of number of blast exposures and distance from the blast was also assessed.

METHOD: OEF/OIF veterans who reported exposure to blast underwent structured interviews and were assigned to no-TBI (n = 39), mTBI without loss of consciousness (LOC; n = 53), or mTBI with LOC (n = 35) groups. They were administered tests of executive function, memory, and motor function at least 6 months after the index event.

RESULTS: Neuropsychological outcomes did not differ as a function of mTBI group. Blast load and distance from the blast also did not affect neuropsychological performance. Both PTSD and depression symptoms were significantly associated with neuropsychological outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS: A history of mTBI with or without LOC during deployment does not contribute to objective cognitive impairment in the chronic phase post injury. In contrast, PTSD and depression symptoms are associated with cognitive performance decrements. This finding is thought to reflect at least in part the impact of psychiatric distress on neuropsychological performance.

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