Cognitive flexibility in PTSD individuals following nature adventure intervention: is it really that good?

Reut Zabag, Orly Deri, Eva Gilboa-Schechtman, Gal Richter-Levin, Einat Levy-Gigi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Previous studies have found that PTSD is associated with hippocampal-related impairment in cognitive flexibility. However, little is known about this impairment following nature adventure interventions. The current ex post facto study aimed to examine the relationship between cognitive flexibility, sailing-based intervention and PTSD symptoms. Thirty-nine individuals with PTSD diagnosis (17 who engaged in sailing and 22 who did not engage in sailing) and 38 healthy control (18 who engaged in sailing and 20 who did not engage in sailing) completed a performance-based reversal learning paradigm to assess cognitive flexibility and were evaluated for PTSD, depressive and anxiety symptoms. The results revealed significantly lower levels of PTSD and trait anxiety symptoms in the PTSD-sailing group, compared to the PTSD-no-sailing group. In addition, both PTSD groups showed selective, though different, impairments in reversal learning. Specifically, PTSD-no-sailing individuals showed a selective impairment in reversing the outcome of a negative stimulus- they struggled to learn that a previously negative stimulus was later associated with a positive outcome. PTSD-sailing individuals, on the other hand, displayed a selective impairment in reversing the outcome of a positive stimulus- they had difficulty learning that a previously positive stimulus was later associated with a negative outcome. The results may suggest that although individuals who participated in a sailing-based intervention had lower clinical symptoms, their hippocampal related cognitive flexibility was mot improved, and the impairment exists in a different domain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-104
Number of pages8
JournalStress
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • PTSD
  • cognitive flexibility
  • hippocampus
  • nature adventure intervention
  • reversal learning
  • sailing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Physiology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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