- heart rate
Persons with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been shown to display elevated baseline cardiovascular activity and a heightened physiological reactivity to trauma-related stimuli. Study 1 examined differences in baseline heart rate (HR) and HR reactivity in 68 survivors of motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) and healthy controls without MVA. MVA survivors with PTSD (n=26), subsyndromal PTSD (n=22), traumatized controls without PTSD (non-PTSD with MVA, n=20) and healthy controls without MVA (HC, n=27) underwent measurement of HR during baseline and exposure to a neutral, positive, negative, and trauma-related picture. PTSD patients showed elevated baseline HR and increased HR reactivity only during exposure to the trauma-related picture. Study 2 investigated whether the elevated physiological responses observed in Study 1 normalized after cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). We conducted a randomized, controlled treatment trial comparing CBT (n=17) to a Wait-list condition (WLC, n=18). Results showed a greater decrease in HR reactivity for CBT than for WLC. The change in HR reactivity was associated with clinical improvement.