Trauma-related psychophysiologic reactivity identified as best predictor of PTSD diagnosis

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and several other institutions including the National Center for PSTD, VA Boston Healthcare System, Suffolk University, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University, have determined that psychophysiologic reactivity to trauma-related, script-driven imagery procedures is a promising biological predictor of a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis. These findings appear online in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Approximately seven to 12 percent of the general adult population in the U.S. suffers with PTSD. This disease develops after an inciting trauma. PTSD commonly affects military personnel who have faced combat, victims of sexual assault, people from conflict-ridden areas of the world, and patients who have survived intensive care unit admissions.

The researchers analyzed data from five prior studies with 150 study participants: 78 diagnosed with PTSD and 72 who had experienced trauma but did not develop PTSD. Researchers studied four main predictor classes including the measurement of psychophysiologic reactivity to trauma-related scripts; psychophysiologic reactivity to other stressful but non-trauma related scripts; self-reported distress in response to trauma-related scripts; and self-reported distress to other stressful but non-trauma-related scripts. Of the four indices examined, psychophysiologic reactivity to trauma-related cues appeared to be the most robust predictor of PTSD.

The researchers believe that these findings have significant implications for the field of psychiatry. "Psychophysiologic reactivity to script-driven imagery is a potential experimental paradigm that could be used to index an individual's fear response," explained principal investigator Suzanne Pineles, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at BUSM and clinical psychologist at the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System. "Future research may extend the use of this paradigm to other populations. For example, it is possible that individuals with other fear-based disorders, such as phobias or panic disorder, would exhibit similar patterns of reactivity to scripts describing their fear."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists identify new gene linked to PTSD

Aug 07, 2012

Investigators at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Veterans Affairs (VA) Boston Healthcare System have identified a new gene linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The findings, published online in ...

PTSD after traumatic events: Which teens are at risk?

Jul 29, 2013

While most children cannot be shielded from emotionally traumatic events, clinicians can target those who are most vulnerable to developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a large study from Boston Children's ...

PTSD linked to smaller brain area regulating fear response

Nov 05, 2012

Recent combat veterans who are diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder have significantly smaller volume in an area of the brain critical for regulating fear and anxiety responses, according to research led by scientists ...

Recommended for you

Despite risks, benzodiazepine use highest in older people

3 hours ago

Prescription use of benzodiazepines—a widely used class of sedative and anti-anxiety medications—increases steadily with age, despite the known risks for older people, according to a comprehensive analysis of benzodiazepine ...

Why some antidepressants may initially worsen symptoms

7 hours ago

New research helps explain a paradoxical effect of certain antidepressants—that they may actually worsen symptoms before helping patients feel better. The findings, highlighted in a paper publishing online December 17 in ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.