Impaired response inhibition in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury

Diane Swick, Nikki Honzel, Jary Larsen, Victoria Ashley, Timothy Justus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can show impairments in executive control and increases in impulsivity. The current study examined the effects of PTSD on motor response inhibition, a key cognitive control function. A Go/NoGo task was administered to veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD based on semi-structured clinical interview using DSM-IV criteria (n = 40) and age-matched control veterans (n = 33). Participants also completed questionnaires to assess self-reported levels of PTSD and depressive symptoms. Performance measures from the patients (error rates and reaction times) were compared to those from controls. PTSD patients showed a significant deficit in response inhibition, committing more errors on NoGo trials than controls. Higher levels of PTSD and depressive symptoms were associated with higher error rates. Of the three symptom clusters, re-experiencing was the strongest predictor of performance. Because the co-morbidity of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and PTSD was high in this population, secondary analyses compared veterans with PTSD+mTBI (n = 30) to veterans with PTSD only (n = 10). Although preliminary, results indicated the two patient groups did not differ on any measure (p >.88). Since cognitive impairments could hinder the effectiveness of standard PTSD therapies, incorporating treatments that strengthen executive functions might be considered in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)917-926
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Executive control
  • Go/NoGo
  • Impulsivity
  • Inhibitory control
  • PTSD
  • TBI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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