Mental Health Does Not Moderate Compensatory Cognitive Training Efficacy for Veterans With a History of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Kathleen F Pagulayan, Maya O'Neil, Rhonda M Williams, Aaron P Turner, Shahrokh Golshan, Mai S Roost, Benjamin Laman-Maharg, Marilyn Huckans, Daniel Storzbach, Elizabeth W Twamley
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2017, 98 (9): 1893-1896.e2

OBJECTIVE: To examine the potential moderating effects of mental health symptoms on the efficacy of compensatory cognitive training (CCT) for Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn veterans with a history of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).

DESIGN: Secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial of CCT. Posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and substance dependence symptom severity were examined as potential moderators of CCT efficacy for subjective cognitive complaints, use of cognitive strategies, and objective neurocognitive performance.

SETTING: Three Veterans Affairs medical centers.

PARTICIPANTS: Participants included veterans with history of mTBI (N=119): 50 participated in CCT and 69 received usual care (UC).

INTERVENTION: CCT is a 10-week group-based (90 minutes per session) manualized cognitive rehabilitation intervention.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Objective (neuropsychological functioning) and subjective (self-report) cognitive functioning and use of cognitive strategies.

RESULTS: Baseline mental health symptoms did not moderate CCT efficacy: veterans who received CCT reported significantly greater improvement in cognitive difficulties and use of cognitive strategies compared with the UC group, regardless of baseline mental health symptom severity. The CCT group also demonstrated significant improvements on neuropsychological measures of attention, learning, and executive functioning compared with the UC group, regardless of baseline mental health symptom severity.

CONCLUSIONS: CCT is efficacious for improving objective cognitive functioning and compensatory strategy use for veterans with a history of mTBI, regardless of the severity of comorbid psychiatric symptoms.

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