Simon A. Rego, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and associate director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, said the study is "yet another in a growing literature that warns about the potential negative consequences of PTSD on the long-term health of soldiers returning from Iraq."
Given that these findings were in soldiers who had been back from Iraq for a year, the results also have implications for the natural progression of PTSD symptoms, and "suggest that relatively acute PTSD symptoms may exert less of an effect on attention than more chronic PTSD symptoms," Rego said.
While these PTSD-related impairments may be considered mild compared with those found in other neurological disorders, it is important to note that they still represent changes in the soldier's functioning that could be experienced as distressing, and while the relationship between PTSD and attention impairment was minimal early on, it strengthened over time, Rego said.
"It appears we may be witnessing another example of the consequences of war on the human nervous system," Rego said. "It draws on and sharpens the body's natural response and adaptation to times of intense stress, which may be adaptive in the short-term, but is ultimately maladaptive in the long-term once soldiers are removed from combat."
For more information on PTSD, visit the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
SOURCES: Jennifer J. Vasterling, Ph.D., chief, psychology, VA Boston Healthcare System, and professor, psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine; Simon A. Rego, Psy.D., assis
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