Objective

The current study addressed two aims: (i) determine how Word Memory Test (WMT) performance relates to test performance across numerous cognitive domains and (ii) evaluate how current psychiatric disorders or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) history affects performance on the WMT after excluding participants with poor symptom validity.

Method

Participants were 235 Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans (Mage = 35.5) who completed a comprehensive neuropsychological battery. Participants were divided into two groups based on WMT performance (Pass = 193, Fail = 42). Tests were grouped into cognitive domains and an average z-score was calculated for each domain.

Results

Significant differences were found between those who passed and those who failed the WMT on the memory, attention, executive function, and motor output domain z-scores. WMT failure was associated with a larger performance decrement in the memory domain than the sensation or visuospatial-construction domains. Participants with a current psychiatric diagnosis or mTBI history were significantly more likely to fail the WMT, even after removing participants with poor symptom validity.

Conclusions

Results suggest that the WMT is most appropriate for assessing validity in the domains of attention, executive function, motor output and memory, with little relationship to performance in domains of sensation or visuospatial-construction. Comprehensive cognitive batteries would benefit from inclusion of additional performance validity tests in these domains. Additionally, symptom validity did not explain higher rates of WMT failure in individuals with a current psychiatric diagnosis or mTBI history. Further research is needed to better understand how these conditions may affect WMT performance.

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