Memory functions in adolescents with posttraumatic stress disorder

Elsa Garcia Acosta, Fordham University


Current data on the psychobiological consequences of traumatic stress seem to indicate that individuals diagnosed with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) exhibit impairment in cognitive functions including information processing, attention, and memory. Studies of memory functions among adult PTSD sufferers found evidence of diminished performance in both verbal and nonverbal memory tasks. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the performance of adolescents with PTSD on standard tests of memory compared to the performance of adolescents without reported psychiatric disorders. Twenty inpatient adolescents in a psychiatric facility and 20 adolescents randomly selected from a local school district were given a battery of tests to assess their intelligence and memory functions. The tests of memory measured the subjects' performance on various tasks tapping verbal and nonverbal memory functions which yielded a composite memory index, as well as indexes of delayed recall, free recall, sequential recall, associative recall, attention/concentration, and cumulative learning. A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was used to test the difference between the two groups on the various memory indexes. If the analysis yielded a significant result, post-hoc univariate analyses were conducted to examine which of the indexes differentiated the two groups and the magnitude and direction of the difference between the groups. Furthermore, in order to investigate whether the differences were attributable to certain potentially important confounder variables, Full-Scale IQ, attention/concentration, and learning index were introduced as covariates in the MANOVA. Between-groups comparison was also done to compare use of learning and retrieval strategies and efficiency of learning. The difference between the groups was tested by a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). To examine whether the PTSD group's performance on the various memory tasks had any relationship with the symptom clusters most frequently manifested by the subjects, canonical correlation coefficient was obtained to indicate whether a statistically significant association existed between the variables and the strength of such association. Results of the study indicated that the adolescents with PTSD performed significantly more poorly than the non-PTSD group on various tasks tapping verbal and nonverbal memory functions, and that the non-PTSD group performed higher on tasks requiring delayed recall, free recall, sequential recall, and associative recall. Results also suggested that the PTSD group's performance on the memory test seemed more associated with the symptoms of intrusive reexperiencing and hyperarousal than the avoidance/numbing symptoms.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Cognitive therapy|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Acosta, Elsa Garcia, "Memory functions in adolescents with posttraumatic stress disorder" (2000). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9975336.