Assessment of early neurocognitive functioning increases the accuracy of predicting chronic PTSD risk

Katharina Schultebraucks*, Ziv Ben-Zion, Roee Admon, Jackob Nimrod Keynan, Israel Liberzon, Talma Hendler, Arieh Y. Shalev

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a protracted and debilitating consequence of traumatic events. Identifying early predictors of PTSD can inform the disorder’s risk stratification and prevention. We used advanced computational models to evaluate the contribution of early neurocognitive performance measures to the accuracy of predicting chronic PTSD from demographics and early clinical features. We consecutively enrolled adult trauma survivors seen in a general hospital emergency department (ED) to a 14-month long prospective panel study. Extreme Gradient Boosting algorithm evaluated the incremental contribution to 14 months PTSD risk of demographic variables, 1-month clinical variables, and concurrent neurocognitive performance. The main outcome variable was PTSD diagnosis, 14 months after ED admission, obtained by trained clinicians using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS). N = 138 trauma survivors (mean age = 34.25 ± 11.73, range = 18–64; n = 73 [53%] women) were evaluated 1 month after ED admission and followed for 14 months, at which time n = 33 (24%) met PTSD diagnosis. Demographics and clinical variables yielded a discriminatory accuracy of AUC = 0.68 in classifying PTSD diagnostic status. Adding neurocognitive functioning improved the discriminatory accuracy (AUC = 0.88); the largest contribution emanating from poorer cognitive flexibility, processing speed, motor coordination, controlled and sustained attention, emotional bias, and higher response inhibition, and recall memory. Impaired cognitive functioning 1-month after trauma exposure is a significant and independent risk factor for PTSD. Evaluating cognitive performance could improve early screening and prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2247-2254
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022


FundersFunder number
National Institute of Mental HealthR01MH103287
National Heart, Lung, and Blood InstituteR01HL156134


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