The prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) varies widely depending on the population studied. For instance, in the general population, the estimated prevalence is about 7%, but prevalence in veterans may be twice that much or greater. The direct effects of PTSD on quality of life are substantial, but there has been little scientific inquiry into whether PTSD causes other downstream consequences. Cohen et al in the Mind Your Heart Study (n = 535) have chosen to examine whether PTSD is associated with impairment of cognitive function by studying younger (age < 65 years) adult veterans free of known neurologic disorders. The investigators used the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) for documentation. Cognitive testing was performed with a battery that assesses multiple domains of cognitive function such as processing speed, working memory, and executive function.

 Subjects with PTSD had worse cognitive performance in several areas: processing speed, executive function, and learning. CNS imaging has suggested that PTSD patients demonstrate anatomical reductions in the size of the hippocampus and frontal lobes, which are involved in episodic memory, processing, and executive function. Since depression, poor health behaviors, and vascular risk factors are also associated with cognitive dysfunction, the authors encourage particular attention to these elements in PTSD patients.