The effects of psychological interventions on neurocognitive functioning in posttraumatic stress disorder : a systematic review

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental disorder, which is associated with emotional and cognitive functioning problems. Psychological interventions, such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (tf-CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) are effective in reducing PTSD symptoms. Despite evidence showing that PTSD is associated with neurocognitive deficits, there is no systematic overview available on neurocognitive outcomes following treatment for PTSD. The current systematic review examined whether psychological treatments for PTSD improve neurocognitive functioning outcomes related to memory, attention, information processing, and executive functioning.

A literature search in PubMed, PsycINFO, PTSDpubs, and Cochrane Library was performed up to March 7, 2022, in collaboration with a medical information specialist. Eligible PTSD treatment studies examining neurocognitive outcomes (memory, attention, information processing and executive function) in patients with a DSM-IV or ICD diagnosis of PTSD were included.

Of the 3023 titles and abstracts identified, 9 articles met inclusion criteria, of which 5 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and 4 non-randomized studies. Treatments included were cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), cognitive processing therapy (CPT), brief eclectic psychotherapy (BEP), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), virtual reality graded exposure therapy (VR-GET), and resilience-oriented treatment (ROT).

This systematic review showed that psychological treatments for PTSD do not affect most neurocognitive functions, with exception of the memory outcomes. Future research, high-quality studies are needed to provide evidence of the effect of psychological treatment in improving neurocognitive functioning in PTSD.



  • This systematic review investigated the effects of psychological treatments on neurocognitive functioning in adults with PTSD.
  • This review showed that most studies were very heterogeneous in design, method, and analysis.
  • This review supports the evidence for psychological treatments for PTSD on improving memory outcomes.
Eka Susanty, Marit Sijbrandij, Willeke van Dijk, Wilis Srisayekti, Ralph de Vries & Anja C. Huizink | 2022
In: European Journal of Psychotraumatology ; ISSN: 2000-8066 | 13 | 1 | May | 2071527
Adults, Attention, Brief Eclectic Psychotherapy, EMDR, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Emotional States, Executive functioning, Literature Review, Memory, Neurobiology, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Psychotrauma, PTSD (en), Systematic Review, Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Treatment, Virtual Reality Exposure