The researchers found that Iraq deployment, compared with nondeployment, was associated with mild neuropsychological compromise on tasks of sustained attention, verbal learning, and visual-spatial memory. Iraq deployment was also associated with increased negative effects on measures of confusion and tension. In contrast, deployment was associated with improved simple reaction time and no changes on other neuropsychological tasks. Deployment effects remained statistically significant after taking into account deployment-related head injury and stress and depression symptoms. The researchers interpret their findings as the carry-over into the home environment of what was likely an adaptive brain-based survival response in the combat zone.
The researchers add that because they included only active-duty Army Soldiers in this report, their results may not be generalizable to other military branches or to National Guard and Reserve personnel activated for deployment.
"Even small declines in the ability to sustain attentional focus and learn and remember new information may reflect subtle neural dysfunction, lead to problems in day-to-day life, and negatively affect performance in high-pressure contexts such as subsequent war-zone participation," the authors write. (JAMA. 2006;296:519-529. Available pre-embargo to the media at www.jamamedia.org)
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Editorial: Neuropsychological Changes Following Military Service in Iraq - Case Proven, But What Is the Significance?
In an accompanying editorial, Matthew Hotopf, Ph.D., of the Institute of Psy
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