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Author Notes:

Correspondence: Tanja Jovanovic, Emory University School of Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, 49 Jesse Hill Jr Dr, Suite 311, Atlanta, GA 30303; Phone: 404-778-1485; Fax: 404-778-1488; Email: tjovano@emory.edu


Research Funding:

This research was supported by the Croatian Ministry of Science, Education and Sport project: Integrative diagnostical model for the stress-related disorders (PI, D. Kozaric-Kovacic), and the National Institutes of Mental Health Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Fellowship 1F32 MH070129-01A2 (PI, T. Jovanovic).


  • PTSD
  • psychophysiology
  • heart-rate
  • skin conductance
  • startle reflex

Altered Resting Psychophysiology and Startle Response in Croatian Combat Veterans with PTSD


Journal Title:

International Journal of Psychophysiology


Volume 71, Number 3


, Pages 264-268

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a prolonged reaction to an extremely traumatic experience. One of the core symptoms of PTSD is hyper-arousal which can be the result of an elevated activation of the autonomic nervous system. Including psychophysiological assessment methods in PTSD research can point to the neurobiological bases of the disorder. The studies of psychophysiology of PTSD to date have mostly measured reactivity. The aim of the current study was to compare resting state psychophysiology and startle reflexes in PTSD patients and controls in a sample of Croatian combat veterans. We measured heart-rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, skin conductance, and eyeblink muscle contraction during an acclimation period and during the presentation of startle stimuli in 45 male PTSD patients and 33 male healthy controls. We found that PTSD patient had elevated baseline heart-rate and decreased respiratory sinus arrhythmia compared to the controls. Furthermore, PTSD patients had impaired habituation to the startle probe, but there was no group difference in initial startle magnitude. There was also no group difference in skin conductance level or skin conductance response. Startle habituation and baseline heart-rate appear to offer the most reliable psychophysiological indices of PTSD. This finding replicates trends in the literature in a new population of PTSD patients.

Copyright information:

© 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

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