OBJECTIVES: In older adults, PTSD is associated with decreased verbal learning and executive dysfunction. Therefore, feasibility of EMDR-treatment to improve cognitive performance in older adults with PTSD was examined. Additionally, we investigated pre-treatment correlation with often co-occurring risk factors for cognitive decline (sleep problems, depressive disorder, physical inactivity, childhood traumatic events).
DESIGN: Multicenter design with pre-post measurements.
SETTING: Psychiatric Dutch hospitals Mondriaan Mental Health Center and Altrecht.
PARTICIPANTS: 22 treatment-seeking PTSD-outpatients (60-84 years).
INTERVENTION: Weekly one-hour EMDR session during 3, 6, or 9 months.
MEASUREMENTS: PTSD was assessed with Clinician-Administered PTSD-scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5). Verbal learning memory was measured with Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), interference with Stroop Colour-Word Test (SCWT) and working memory with Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Digit Span (WAIS-IV-DS).
RESULTS: A Linear mixed-model showed significant improvement on RAVLT immediate-recall (F (1, 21) = 15.928, P = .001, 95% CI -6.98-2.20), delayed-recall (F (1, 21) = 7.095, P = .015, 95% CI -2.43-.30), recognition (F (21) = 8.885, P = .007, 95% CI -1.70- -.30), and SCWT (F (1 ,21) = 5.504, P = .029, 95% CI 4.38-72.78) but not on WAIS-IV-DS (F (20) = -1.237, P = .230, 95% CI -3.07-.78). There was no significant influence of therapy duration and CAPS-5 pre-treatment scores. There were small-medium nonsignificant correlations between CAPS-5 and cognitive performance pre-post differences, and between most cognitive measures and sleep problems, depressive disorder, and physical inactivity.
CONCLUSIONS: Cognitive functioning on memory and attention possible increased in older adults with PTSD after EMDR treatment. Further research is needed with a larger sample and a control condition to corroborate these findings and to identify the possible mediating role of modifiable risk factors.
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© The Author(s) 2023.