Symptoms of Re-experiencing the Traumatic Event Predict Cognitive Impairment

HealthDay News —  Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experienced by many rescuers and other first responders of 9/11 now appears linked to cognitive impairment and dementia, according to a report published online in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring.

The 818 first responders included in the study were age 53, on average, and all had diagnosed PTSD, flashbacks, or nightmares. Tests of reasoning, concentration, problem-solving, and memory were done in 2014 and 2015, along with psychological evaluations.

The researchers found that 12.8% of participants showed signs of cognitive impairment, and 1.2% had early signs of dementia. Overall, the team found that responders with PTSD and cognitive impairment had lower education, were likely to have jobs such as construction or utility workers, were older, and smoked, compared with those without mental decline. Declines in cognition and memory associated with PTSD remained even after the researchers accounted for education, occupation, trauma severity, smoking, hazardous drinking, and various health conditions.

“People with PTSD, regardless from where they get it, are more likely to have cognitive impairment earlier,” lead researcher Sean Clouston, PhD, an assistant professor of family population and preventive medicine at Stony Brook University in New York, told HealthDay. About one-fifth of the World Trade Center responders developed PTSD, according to background notes with the study.

Related Articles


Clouston SAP, Kotov R, Pietrzak RH, et al. Cognitive impairment among World Trade Center responders: long-term implications of re-experiencing the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Alzheimers Dement (Amst). 2016;4:67-75.