Neuropsychology. 2023 Nov 2. doi: 10.1037/neu0000930. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVE: Persistent cognitive symptoms after mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) often do not correlate with objective neuropsychological performance. Catastrophizing (i.e., excessively negative interpretations of symptoms) may help explain this discrepancy. We hypothesize that symptom catastrophizing will be associated with greater cognitive symptom reporting relative to neuropsychological test performance in people seeking treatment for mTBI.
METHOD: Secondary analysis of baseline data from a randomized controlled trial. Adults with mTBI (N = 77) were recruited from two outpatient mTBI clinics in British Columbia, Canada. Questionnaires and assessments were administered at baseline (M = 17.7 weeks postinjury). The sample was 64% women with a mean age of 42 years (SD = 11.5). Validated questionnaires were used to assess catastrophizing, cognitive symptoms, and affective distress. Neuropsychological performance was assessed using the National Institutes of Health Toolbox Cognition Battery. Discrepancies between cognitive symptoms and cognitive functioning were operationalized using standard residuals from neuropsychological test performance scores regressed on cognitive symptom scores. Generalized linear models were run to measure the association between symptom catastrophizing, cognitive variables, and their discrepancy, with affective distress as a covariate.
RESULTS: Symptom catastrophizing was associated with more severe cognitive symptoms when controlling for neuropsychological performance (β = 0.44, 95% CI [0.23, 0.65]). Symptom catastrophizing was also associated with higher subjective-objective cognition residuals (β = 0.43, 95% CI [0.22, 0.64]). Catastrophizing remained a significant predictor after affective distress was introduced as a covariate.
CONCLUSIONS: Catastrophizing is associated with misperceptions of cognitive functioning following mTBI, specifically overreporting cognitive symptoms relative to neuropsychological performance. Symptom catastrophizing may be an important determinant of cognitive symptom reporting months after mTBI. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).