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Self-Reported Cognitive Symptoms in Military Veteran College Students

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An increasing number of military veterans are enrolling in college, primarily due to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which provides educational benefits to veterans who served on active duty since September 11, 2001. With rigorous training, active combat situations, and exposure

An increasing number of military veterans are enrolling in college, primarily due to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which provides educational benefits to veterans who served on active duty since September 11, 2001. With rigorous training, active combat situations, and exposure to unexpected situations, the veteran population is at a higher risk for traumatic brain injury (TBI), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and depression. All of these conditions are associated with cognitive consequences, including attention deficits, working memory problems, and episodic memory impairments. Some conditions, particularly mild TBI, are not diagnosed or treated until long after the injury when the person realizes they have cognitive difficulties. Even mild cognitive problems can hinder learning in an academic setting, but there is little data on the frequency and severity of cognitive deficits in veteran college students. The current study examines self-reported cognitive symptoms in veteran students compared to civilian students and how those symptoms relate to service-related conditions. A better understanding of the pattern of self-reported symptoms will help researchers and clinicians determine the veterans who are at higher risk for cognitive and academic difficulties.

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2016-05

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Service-related conditions and higher-order cognitive processing in military veteran college students

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Military veterans have a significantly higher incidence of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), depression, and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to civilians. Military veterans also represent a rapidly growing subgroup of college students, due in part to the robust and

Military veterans have a significantly higher incidence of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), depression, and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to civilians. Military veterans also represent a rapidly growing subgroup of college students, due in part to the robust and financially incentivizing educational benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The overlapping cognitively impacting symptoms of service-related conditions combined with the underreporting of mTBI and psychiatric-related conditions, make accurate assessment of cognitive performance in military veterans challenging. Recent research findings provide conflicting information on cognitive performance patterns in military veterans. The purpose of this study was to determine whether service-related conditions and self-assessments predict performance on complex working memory and executive function tasks for military veteran college students. Sixty-one military veteran college students attending classes at Arizona State University campuses completed clinical neuropsychological tasks and experimental working memory and executive function tasks. The results revealed that a history of mTBI significantly predicted poorer performance in the areas of verbal working memory and decision-making. Depression significantly predicted poorer performance in executive function related to serial updating. In contrast, the commonly used clinical neuropsychological tasks were not sensitive service-related conditions including mTBI, PTSD, and depression. The differing performance patterns observed between the clinical tasks and the more complex experimental tasks support that researchers and clinicians should use tests that sufficiently tax verbal working memory and executive function when evaluating the subtle, higher-order cognitive deficits associated with mTBI and depression.

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2017