What is learning ability?

Learning is the ability to acquire, or change existing knowledge, behaviours, or skills. This process may be disrupted in people with PTSD. There are two distinct forms of learning: explicit (or declarative) learning occurs during a high level of consciousness regarding specific learnt content, for example, memorising information for an exam. Implicit (or procedural) learning is less conscious and refers to learning that is gained from task performance, for example, juggling. Explicit verbal learning can be measured with the Hopkins Verbal Learning test, the California Verbal Learning test and verbal list-learning, for example. The Brief Visuospatial memory test, the Rey design learning test, the Rey complex figure test, and visual reproduction all measure explicit visual learning. Implicit learning can be measured using the Serial Reaction Time task where learning is inferred from reduced reaction time to stimuli.

What is the evidence for learning ability in people with PTSD?

Moderate to low quality evidence finds a medium-sized effect showing traumatised children with PTSD had poorer learning ability than controls who were not exposed to trauma or PTSD, but not when compared to trauma-exposed controls (without PTSD).

Moderate to high quality evidence found small to medium-sized effects of poorer learning ability in adults with PTSD than in trauma-exposed or non-exposed controls.

August 2021

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Last updated at: 2:03 am, 29th August 2021
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