Long-term cognitive correlates of exposure to trauma: Evidence from Rwanda.

TitleLong-term cognitive correlates of exposure to trauma: Evidence from Rwanda.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsBlanchette, I, Rutembesa, E, Habimana, E, Caparos, S
JournalPsychol Trauma
Volume11
Issue2
Pagination147-155
Date Published2019 Feb
ISSN1942-969X
KeywordsAdult, Cognition, Depression, Executive Function, Exposure to Violence, Female, Genocide, Humans, Male, Memory, Short-Term, Middle Aged, Rwanda, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic
Abstract

Research increasingly shows links between trauma exposure, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and cognitive functioning. We know relatively little about the long-term cognitive correlates of exposure to trauma, especially in civilian populations exposed to war and political violence.OBJECTIVE: Our goal was to examined short-term memory (STM) and executive function 20 years after the 1994 genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda. We hypothesized that performance on these tasks would be negatively related to trauma exposure and to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.METHOD: In two studies, 470 Rwandan participants answered questionnaires measuring the severity of experiences that occurred during the 1994 genocide and current levels of PTSD symptoms. In both studies, we tested STM using a forward digit span task. In the second study, we also measured executive function using a semantic fluency task.RESULTS: There were modest but significant negative links between the severity of experiences during the genocide and STM function more than 20 years after. Current levels of PTSD symptoms were also related to STM and executive function.CONCLUSIONS: This study reveals the important link between exposure to highly emotional events and cognitive function and highlights the need to attend not only to the mental health but also to the cognitive health of populations exposed to political violence. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

DOI10.1037/tra0000388
Alternate JournalPsychol Trauma
PubMed ID30124309
Grant List / / Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada /